Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bags packed, ready for takeoff.

When you're going to the hospital, particularly for the first time, particularly for any kind of major surgery, you tend to be preoccupied by the fact that another human being is going to be sawing you open and twiddling with your insides more than thinking *what should I bring?*

I'm not suggesting you pack a trunk, a small overnight bag will more than suffice, and it would be something someone has to bring to you after the surgery - but there will possibly be a few days there where you can't leave yet, but you're not so out of it that you can't be bored off your tits and generally restless (between your naps - the naps would be the best thing about a hospital stay if there wasn't someone coming and waking you up all the time)

Comfortable clothes. Once you're no longer hooked up to machines, there's really no reason you should keep wearing a soul-killing-itchy-early-nineties-pattern-having-ass-hanging-out hospital johnny. Get some nice big stretchy pants. Sweatpants, yoga pants, dorm pants, pajama pants - non binding and roomy is the idea. And a nice big t-shirt, and a nice big hoodie. Gigantic, like you're wearing a blanket. You don't want things that cling as they can irritate, also, lots of people will want to check your incision, much easier to pull up a giant t-shirt than a tight one (and get used to people seeing your tits. there is no modesty in hospital-land, just pretend you're at Mardi-gras (sadly, hospital staff do not reward you with shiny beads). Putting on your own clothes is a big step towards feeling like you again.

Warm house socks, with the rubber soles -  make sure the tops are nice and stretchy, because you may have some swelling in your legs for a few days. They *will* give you socks. Those socks are bullshit. Bring your own, scornfully throw beige hospital socks in the corner and ignore them. It's what they deserve.

Sensible underpants. Not panties, not thongs, not cute bikini briefs. I'm talking big ugly grandma briefs. Here's why. In bed you'll be elevated, at least a little, I personally couldn't sleep flat on my back for several months post op - it hurt and it was hard to breathe comfortably. Anyway - when you're sitting in a bed all day you tend to slide down every so often, and if you're not wearing sturdy full coverage knickers, you will constantly be pulling your underwear out of your ass. It's a little thing but really, you already have enough going on. Why cause yourself more discomfort?

Hair wranglers. Headband, bandana, elastics, and a brush (I always forget a brush, every damn time) Whether your hair is long or short, you want to keep it in check  - this has nothing to do with vanity, and everything to do with not having hair in your face (which drives me batshit), and, if you have long hair, not exiting after a week looking like Medusa. My hair is very long, I will be rocking braids.

Baby wipes. I'm sure they can give you these in the hospital if you ask, but they will probably smell like disinfectant. You will want them, because after a few days with no shower you will start to feel like you just spent the weekend at The Gathering I was able to take an actual shower some time around day 5, but prior to that it's nice to be able to clean yourself up a bit. Obviously you would not use this on your incision or any IV ports - if that needs cleaning, ask a nurse.

Lip balm - my hospital was quite dry, yawning at this time is enough of an ordeal without your lips ripping open as you do it.

Hand lotion - this is another thing they will have at the hospital if you need it, but it's nice to have one in a scent you prefer. I forgot to bring some and one of my besties was kind enough to bring me one, it was lavender, and I have to say after what felt like days of nothing but hospital and disinfectant smell it was so wonderful, and soothing.

Something to read. Books - kindle or analog, magazines, whatever your thing is. Nothing too in depth, remember you're going to be on heavy narcotics, focus and concentration will not be your forte at this time. Since there can't ALWAYS be a Law and Order marathon on the telly to zone out to, like in the morning for example, when there's nothing on but insipid children's shows and even MORE insipid and intellectually insulting morning chat television (looking at YOU Kathie Lee and Hoda) you will want something to read. Maybe your hospital will have kickass wifi and you can binge watch your days away. My hospital does NOT have kickass wifi, it has "you can check your Facebook and twitter but fuck you if you think you're streaming Netflix" wifi. If you're of an arty bent, maybe a little sketchpad and a couple of pencils, or a journal to write in might be good.

Music - on your phone, on your iPod, whatever - you may at some point have to drown out the crazy bitch in the next room who thinks it's okay to scream and swear at great length at the nurses (WHICH BY THE WAY IT IS NOT) or maybe you will have to share a room with a chatty cathy, or a snorer, or a mutterer, or maybe you just need to have a little rock out in your bed to remind you this is not gonna be your entire life for the rest of forever.

I'm assuming most folks would want their phone (at least I do) but don't forget to bring a charger. Also, a long charger cord, so you don't have to be twisting around or getting up to reach an outlet (this will also come in handy when you go home). On amazon you can order a 10 foot cord. Best thing ever.

Glasses. If you're blind (like me), you'll want them, obviously. Prior to going into surgery they will more than likely tell you to give them to the person accompanying you. If you are a difficult asshole like me you won't want to do that because you feel vulnerable enough without being blind to boot. I put my daily glasses in the bag Dad would bring post op. I brought with me a pair of old glasses that are a little weak but they work enough for the situation at hand, and if they get lost somewhere between pre and post op, no big deal (they didn't lose them, but were emphatic that it COULD happen)

Travel sized shampoo and conditioner - this might just be me but I'm fussy as hell about what kind of shampoo I use and I NEED conditioner. hospitals usually give that baby shampoo that leaves your hair feeling like you washed it with dishwashing detergent. You might not want to shower at the hospital, and that is your prerogative, but if you do, the products they offer might not be as luxurious as you prefer (and by luxurious I mean not something sold in bulk to hospitals where they have to take into consideration any and all allergies and sensitivities) Another option is dry shampoo, spray in, brush out. A good option if you're not up to taking a shower, but look like you got caught in an oil slick or are ready to claw at your scalp until you hit brain. Whatever you bring, don't use it to wash any open wounds, unless the nurse says it's ok.

One thing to remember to leave at home - jewelry. I know a lot of people, myself included, have great sentimental attachment to pieces they wear every day. You can't wear anything in surgery, you don't want to lose them, and you're gonna have sausage hands for a few days at least. Leave them at home.

Another thing to leave at home is your bra. I loathe being braless - HATE IT. It's uncomfortable and I hate looking like my chest is inhabited by two puppies fighting in a bag. Last year, I got a nice stretchy non underwire not too tight bra that closed up the front to wear when I left the hospital, but it still caused pulling and one of my drainage ports got pulled open, which while by no means a serious issue, its just gross to have what looks like a little mouth on your stomach. It healed fine but took longer than the other two and led me to consider getting 2 little eyes tattooed above it. This time I'm just gonna go for a snug tank top  when I go home.

Last thing to leave at home is work. Do you get work email on your phone? Turn that shit off. Seriously. Fuck work. The hospital is no place for stressing over work or engaging with work emails, emphasize to your co-workers and boss that you are NOT AVAILABLE. I work for myself. I have let my clients know due to medical concerns I will be unavailable for several weeks. I realize not everyone has that luxury, but I have friends whose companies have zero regard for their need for rest and time to heal  - "Glad your surgery went well, if you have a second can you respond to....." NO. FUCK. THAT.

Perhaps you've been reading this and thinking "Jesus lady - it's a hospital stay not a weeks holiday" Yes, but I'm of the opinion that in times like this, when you're exhausted, and hurting, and starting to feel like some kind of lab rat, its good to remind yourself of who you are, and take care of yourself, and take whatever steps you can, however small, to getting back to being yourself. You have survived a major surgery, you are officially a badass, treat yourself with the respect you deserve.