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Your Hospital Bag: The Top 10 Things You’ll Be Glad You Had

Have you ever dreamt it was the first day of school and you forgot your bookbag, your lunch money, and your pants? Well that was about how comically underprepared I was for my first hospital stay. First, I drove. This probably seems like a completely natural thing to do until you realize I live in the middle of a major metropolitan area and even with a discount, parking at my hospital overnight is $24. I carried with me a backpack containing one (seriously, ONE) pair of extra underwear, a toothbrush, and my laptop. To say I was I was naïve about my situation would be putting it mildly.

This being my first official stay at the clink, I honestly thought I’d be there for a few hours. I’d get some fluids, they’d see that there were people much sicker than I who needed that room, and I’d be sent home. In the nicest way possible, my doctor explained to me that my vision for the next 24 hours was a bit of a fantasy. I remember he said to me “Shelley, you are very sick” and I started crying. Not because I really wanted to get back to all that work and all those commitments I had only marginally prepared to set aside but because dang, nobody had ever verbalized that I was really quite sick before.

Turning point one in a journey filled with turning points: my first hospital stay.

Two fun filled weeks later, I was finally discharged but in that time and in the time since (just under two months in-patient total and counting), I’ve learned a few things. The first of which is that being in and out of the hospital is no fun at all. The second of which is that if you bring the right accoutrements, you can take the edge off a bad situation and so I decided to document my top ten items on this blog.

Here we go!

  1. Wipes, wipes and more wipes – Sometimes the idea of dealing with IV’s, docs coming in and out of your room, AND a shower is too much Don’t get me wrong, in-hospital showers are life-giving but when a full-blown shower isn’t an option, an “alternative shower” with these is pretty great. Plus, on the really bad days when getting out of bed seems like the equivalent of climbing a mountain, wipes will come to you.

  2. A long phone charging cable – Your mobile doesn’t need to go on this list because let’s be straight, I don’t even go to the bathroom without that thing let alone the hospital. However, unless you have a Tesla-grade battery in your phone, you’re going to need to charge it. A 10ft iPhone cable picked up at Walgreens became the best $15 I ever spent. Your phone is your lifeline to friends and family so being able to charge it while also having it in hand is invaluable.

  3. Room spray – Okay, is it just me or does citrus breeze smell way better than stale plastic and disinfectant? After a few days, I couldn’t take it anymore. It might seem like an odd addition to this list but it’s one of those things that just makes you feel a bit fresher. (Especially after an alternative shower.)

  4. Aquaphor – Let’s be honest. This is fancy Vaseline. I use it on everything! I’m like the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding with his Windex. It calms chapped lips, helps get adhesive goo off, and soothes dry, cracked feet and hands. Is there anything it can’t do?

  5. Slippers – I’ll admit, there are times when I’m so sick you could sprinkle legos and doo doo on the floor and I’d still probably get up and walk on it in my bare feet because that’s about how much I care when I’m super ill. Set yourself up NOT to be like me by bringing a good pair of slippers or Tom’s and keeping them at your bedside.

  6. Tissues - Since the hospital ones are basically thinly sliced cinder block, sometimes it’s nice to have some Ultrasoft Kleenex. I’m not saying you can’t live without these but at $3 a box, I am saying you shouldn’t.

  7. A blanket – This is the item I didn’t know I needed until a good friend brought me a care package and in it was softest, comfiest blanket. All blankets paled in comparison after that and it became my official “hospital blanket” – faithfully at the ready as soon as duty calls.

  8. Ear plugs and a sleeping mask – Hospitals won’t be winning any awards for helping you get a good nights sleep (unless there is morphine involved) so help yourself out with a sleeping mask and some ear plugs. Just be sure to tell your night nurse so they are prepared to wake Sleeping Beauty when he or she comes in to take your vitals in the middle of the night.

  9. Tablet and over-ear headphones – If I could wish for one thing for you in hospital, it wouldn’t be a quick IV poke or a corner room away from the noisy nurses station. It would be for a strong, fast wireless signal. Now sometimes, watching Netflix or getting a little work done isn’t an option – hard to get anything done when you’re too weak to lift your head up off the pillow. However, when times are good, binge watching Masterpiece Theatre (hey, whatever suits) and ordering a shake from the cafeteria can almost make you forget where you are.

  10. Your own pillow and pillow case – My mom taught me this one but apparently the secret it out! Much like their blankets, hospital pillows are the worst. Having your own is both more comfortable as well as more comforting. Just make sure to throw a unique pillow case on it so that it doesn’t get caught up with everything else.

And before I leave you, I have to give an honorable mention to…. – When all else fails, did you know you can order items for pick up at Target? This is how I survived that first stay mentioned above. When it was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere soon, I knew I needed to get creative. Rather than have my boyfriend rifle through my drawers to identify just the right not-too-sexy cotton tank top to bring me, I opted to order a few online along with everything else I wanted from Target and BAM! – it was ready to be picked up in an hour. I might be a bit of a control freak but hospitals make you feel helpless enough. Is it so wrong to want to pick out your own underwear?

Shelley was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and later Ulcerative Colitis in 2014. Like all of you, she’s a lot more than her disease. She enjoys travel, fitness, snowboarding and posting what some might consider an excessive number of pictures of her two chihuahuas on social media. Shelley is an active volunteer with IBD Superfriends, a program hosted by the University of Chicago Hospitals, and welcomes the opportunity to interact with other chronic illness fighters who might be experiencing some of the same struggles.



Ig: @shelleyfbrown

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