If your treatment journey includes surgery, you might spend a few days, to a few weeks, in some form of hospital care. For Tommy's procedure, an esophagectomy, required two days in the ICU, and a following five days in a recovery room.
My mom and sister came up to help us out, but whether you have a backup team or not, it helps to feel prepared. Packing during the days ahead helps you feel in control and ready if nerves are flying leading up to the surgery. We almost felt as though we were preparing a 'going into labor' bag, but I am very glad we did!
Even with all our preparation, we forgot several important items. You will never feel 100% ready, but hopefully, this list will help you get close.
HOSPITAL STAY PACKING LIST/TIPS:
- SEVERAL PAIRS OF SOCKS. They will have you walking up and down the hallways for physical therapy, and the socks they provide will get dirty quickly.
- NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES. These were a godsend for us. There is nowhere in the world less restful than a hospital, especially the ICU. When all you need is rest, and alarms, beeps, and voices are endlessly keeping you up. Headphones, along with some white noise (we used a sleep app) will make a world of difference.
- LIP BALM. This may seem insignificant, but if you've been intubated and haven't had a sip of water in days, it's the end-all, be-all game changer. We used Kiehl's Lip Balm #1 which worked like a charm.
- NECK PILLOW. We did not prepare for this one but ended up using the stuffed dog I bought as a 'get-well' gift in place of a neck pillow. The provided pillows might be too big/small, so it's best to have options. Tommy had incisions on his front, as well as his back and side, so comfortable bedding was key to getting some much-needed sleep.
- HANDHELD FAN. Like the ones you bring to your brother's soccer game. Hospital beds are hot. They are mostly plastic in order to keep them sterile. This can lead to sweating and uncomfortable nights. Bring a fan to help cool off.
- HOT AND COLD CLOTHES. At some point in your stay, you will be able to swap the hospital gown for your own clothes. We brought sweat pants and sweatshirts, aiming for comfort. Little did we know, the pain medicines and a low-grade fever altered his body temperature drastically throughout the day. I replaced these warm clothes with cooler t-shirts and shorts halfway through the stay.
- LEAVE THE RING AT HOME. During all the hustle and bustle before, during, and after surgery, things can get lost. They sometimes provide lockers, but go ahead and leave the patient's wedding ring and wallet at home. BUT be sure to put their ID and Insurance Card in the care taker's wallet before arriving.