Video: What to pack for a hospital stay
Hospital stay coming up? Learn what to pack with our exclusive video and list of 12 things to pack - specially written for those who are having a heart operation or procedure.
Important phone numbers
Make sure you’ve got contact details for anyone you’ll want to get in touch with while you’re in hospital. And it’s a good idea to take along your GP’s name, address and phone number.
A button up the front design of pyjamas or nightdress might be easier to put on if your movement is limited (following chest surgery, for example). For ladies, a nightdress may be easier if you will have a urinary catheter fitted. You might want to pack one if you’ll be in for more than a couple of nights.
Comfortable, loose clothes are best. Bear in mind that hospital wards are usually warm. Don’t forget underwear, socks, and slippers. A dressing gown
is also handy for times you don’t feel like getting dressed.
For women, your choice of bra is important after chest surgery or pacemaker or ICD implantation. A strong supportive bra is best after pacemaker implantation, so that the weight of the breast doesn’t pull on the wound. The strap may rub against the wound site, however, so consider a different design of bra such as halterneck or strapless. You can also buy soft pads to go under your straps, although you may find that tissues are sufficient.
If you’ve had open-chest surgery, a soft, supportive non-wired bra is usually best. A front-fastening design might be easier (so that you don’t have to reach your arms behind your back.) Some major department stores sell specially designed post-surgery bras.
Small towel/cushion (after surgery)
Coughing or sneezing can put a lot of pressure on your breastbone after chest surgery and is uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t try to stop yourself coughing, as that can lead to a chest infection. Instead, take a cushion or rolled up towel (something that covers the length of your breast bone) and hold it against your breast bone when you cough. A pillow or towel can also be helpful if you’re going home by car, to place between your chest and the seatbelt strap.
Notebook and pen
This can be useful to write down any questions you think of when the doctor is not available – or for writing down your thoughts and feelings, or writing letters to friends or family.
Things to read
Take things to occupy you, such as books, magazines or puzzle books – a variety of these as your attention span may be limited. Make sure the books aren’t heavy or they may be hard to hold, especially if you’ve had chest surgery.
Eye mask and ear plugs
Hospital wards can be bright and/or noisier at night than you’re used to.
Don’t forget your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, hairbrush or comb, and a towel. Shower gel is better than a bar of soap, which will stay damp and could harbour germs (you don’t need to bring soap for handwashing, as liquid soap will be provided). Dry shampoo can be handy if you don’t feel like or can’t have a shower, while wet wipes will also help if you just want a quick freshen up. If you use mouthwash or shaving materials, take those too, plus any accessories like denture cleaner if you have dentures.
Consider carefully whether you want to take any electronic devices, such as mobile phone, laptop/tablet, e-reader, or music player. They can be helpful to pass the time, but check your hospital’s policy on these devices and take them at your own risk. If you decide to take them, don’t forget ear phones and a charger or spare batteries if you’ll need them. Generally, it’s best not to take valuables to hospital as their safety can’t be guaranteed. Don’t forget reading glasses if you use them.
Food and drink
It’s not compulsory, but you might like to take some healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, or fresh or dried fruit. Prunes can be helpful as constipation can be an issue after surgery.
Small cartons of juice with a straw are easy to lift and a straw makes it easier to drink while lying down.
Take with you any medication that you normally take, preferably in its original packaging, and a list of the doses for each. If you use eye drops, inhalers or creams, don’t forget these. If you have a pre-operative assessment or consultant appointment before your hospital stay, it’s also a good idea to take all your medications, or an accurate list of them, along to that.
You don’t absolutely need all these things, but you might like to take coins for small purchases such as newspapers, bed socks, tissues, (it can be an emotional time) moisturiser, a compact mirror, lip balm, a spare plastic bag to take home dirty laundry, and a photo of your family or a loved one.
Read our guide to what to expect from a hospital stay.