Sunday, 7 December 2014

Packing for hospital

'Hospital bag' is bright orange–easily identifiable
and hard to lose.
This week, 'hospital bag' is out of its cosy cupboard corner as we (bag and I) prepare for a forthcoming hospital stay. 

This long post lists my essentials for a comfortable hospital stay.

There are several important considerations to be made; but right now, my most pressing challenge is to decide upon a take-along crochet project.

I have two WIPs*, both unsuitable to pack:

Belcarra Cardigan:  too big/heavy to pack, almost complete, not enough crochet to sustain me for days and likely to be completed before hospital admission, especially after I endured a three-hour pre-admission appointment during which much progress was made on the cardigan. 

Small Self-designed item: item itself is small but as it is 'under construction' has too much paraphernalia to go with it; e.g. scribbled design notes and records, samples and swatches, more than one skein as there are multiple colours in the design, risk of losing materials and design ideas due to interruptions and hospital routines.

Which leaves me with my elbow on the desk, chin in the heel of my hand (like 'The Thinker'), pondering…

Ah! The indecision! Too hard! 

Let's procrastinate on the crochet by checking the contents of the big orange bag and come back to the crochet questions later.

Hospital Packing List

The 'hospital bag' contents fit into one or more 
of these categories:

Mobility equipment


This is a large category. Let's face it, hospitals are messy. One can feel less than human. There's nothing like a hot, refreshing shower or wash and having one's hair done to retain some semblance of dignity after undergoing tests and operations ('Doctorspeak' translation: 'procedures') so it is important to have the toiletries that you normally use and make you feel like 'you'.  

Standard hospital-issue soaps may not be compatible with your skin so it is best to take along your normal products.  My body is so sensitive to perfumes, colours and other additives, so it is important to me to have products that I know will not create extra stress on the immune system.  The last thing you need is to have a reaction to a foreign product on top of the complaint that has put you in hospital.

Shampoo: see notes about soap!  In my experience, hospitals don't supply shampoo and conditioner. They will use the standard 'multi-purpose' liquid soap; not the best for hair so take your own. Tiny travel-sized containers are now easily available in chemists and supermarkets for you to take along your hair products without the bulk of large bottles. Sometimes chemists have sample sachets that take up less space.

Hair supplies: brush; comb; hair ties, preferably without metal connectors–radiographers don't like wayward metal spots on their x-rays and some scanners require that any metal on the body is removed (e.g. belt buckles, rings etc.); hand mirror–not just useful for hair, but also for examining bits of the body that may have had work done but you 'just can't see from there' due to mobility restrictions etc. 

Make-up: unless you are expecting a visit from the queen and/or an entourage of photographers for an exclusive shoot, I don't recommend make-up. It can rub off on your bedding and smudge while you sleep, and will you have the energy to apply it and then take it off effectively anyway?  

If you are having an operation or 'procedure' (word of the week?) there is no point in wearing make-up or nail polish for that matter because it is only going to delay proceedings while the surgical team wash it all off.  In this day and age of 'production line day surgery' when bookings may be tightly scheduled, do you really want to add more time pressures to your surgical team? 

The most important reason for no make-up is that the treating team need to see your normal skin colour on your face, fingers and toes to check your oxygen levels and circulation.  Your complexion can reveal a lot about how your body is coping with the treatment(s).

Skin creams and moisturisers: antiseptic gels, frequent hand-washing, possibly more frequent showers and hospital air-conditioning are very drying to the skin.  If you have any skin condition, remember to include any medicated creams that you use and to let your treating doctors know about them when completing medication lists. Again, sample packs of some products may be available through your doctor or chemist.

Toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss: dental floss containers can double as a thread cutter if you have a crochet project along!

Razor: not really necessary; handy to pack if admission is for a week or more and you feel the need.

Feminine hygiene: [TMI* Warning!  I am not trying to offend and apologise if my frank discussion is uncomfortable for you but it is important] A change in routine, meds or stress can alter the cycle so it is good to be prepared. Hospitals prefer patients to use pads instead of tampons. If you should become unconscious for an extended time and are using tampons, it may not be noticed straightaway and there is a risk of toxic shock syndrome. Hospital supplies are ordered on the 'one size to fit all' principle (which usually means 'fits no one properly') so for comfort's sake, it is best to pack your own preferred products.


Always pack regular medications in their original containers with the pharmacist's label attached. The labels have all of the active ingredients, dosages and doctor's instructions and your name on it so they should not get lost or given to other patients by mistake.  

If you have a planned admission, check with the hospital team about whether you need to stop any medications before or during admission, which medications you need to bring and which ones will be supplied by the hospital during your stay.

It is handy to have a list of all medications including strength and form
(e.g. tablets, capsules, sprays etc.), and when or how often you take them. Listing the reason for each medication gives quick and easy information to the hospital team if they need to adjust medicines during your stay. It's all about keeping everyone informed to keep you safe.

I shove my 'meds' into a snap-lock bag on which it is easy to slap a hospital identification (ID) sticker.

Mobility Equipment

If you use mobility equipment such as a cane, crutches, walking frame or wheelchair etc. and you need to take it with you, make sure it is labelled with your name and let people know it belongs to you and not the hospital. Usually staff can recognise private equipment but not always.  

In the past, I have labelled my personal equipment with the hospital ID stickers in case it 'wanders' or gets left behind somewhere (this shouldn't happen but human beings make mistakes sometimes). The ID stickers are good because they have your record number on them so if the item is found, it is easy to look you up on the computer to find you.  If any part of the item could detach, you may wish to label those parts too.

If you have time for a planned admission, discuss the use of equipment beforehand. Some hospitals may have policies that require patients to use only the hospital's equipment.

Administration & Planning

This may include forms, referral letters, test results, x-rays and medication lists.

Remember to list any allergies whether to food, medicines or products commonly found in hospitals such as latex gloves.

You may need a referral to the hospital dietician if a special diet is required or you may need to bring in your own food.  If you have time to cook ahead and freeze meals, it can be handy. Even if you do not have an allergy, it can be a real pick-me-up to have a friend or family member bring in a home-cooked meal.

You may be asked for the names of your regular treating doctor(s) or specialist(s), the dates of previous appointments or tests etc. so it is useful to have that information with you. 

Notepad and pen: invaluable for taking notes of symptoms, nurses' or doctors' names and any advice they might give you, recording times and doses of medication etc. One's memory can become quite fuzzy due to medications, fatigue or stress of hospitalisation.  

Any emotional response to doctor's comments can hinder one's ability to remember and process a lot of new information at once. A written record of what was said is useful to review later when one is calmer and more rational.  

It is very common to think of questions to ask the doctors after they have left you! Whenever a question arises, write it down in the notebook and refer to it at the next consultation.

My affirmation cards.
A notebook is useful for reminders, notes from phone calls or keeping inspirational quotes like those in my affirmation cards which are explained in the post "Surviving Chronic Illness: Positive Affirmation" (16 June 2013).

My health diary contains all the essential information
that can be easily photocopied and shared
A list of useful addresses and phone numbers, such as doctors, family and friends, neighbours, neighbourhood pharmacy, school and community supports etc. makes it easy for taking care of household and family business from your hospital bed.  The hospital will want phone numbers and details of any emergency contacts or next of kin.

My brightly coloured health diary 
(A5 day-to-a-page) contains everything I might need and is explained in the post "Live Well: Organise Your Life"
(1 June 2014). 

Have 'all the reference numbers'; e.g. insurance, ambulance fund, medicare, concession and medical record numbers, especially if the records are shared from another hospital or health service.

Money: do not take large amounts of money. I only pack a small coin purse with a small amount of cash for incidental expenses such as reading materials, snacks, television or internet services. A credit card can be handy.
Crocheted phone cover
designed by Jodiebodie
(that's me!)

Mobile phone and charger: keep in touch with the outside world!  Check your hospital policy for use of mobile phones. There are still some areas where mobile phones are prohibited. Some hospitals require electrical goods to be tested and tagged before being plugged into the hospital circuitry.

You never know when the mobile phone will come in handy. On one occasion, I used the mobile phone to contact the nurse's station because they were not answering my call button on a particularly busy (and understaffed) shift! 


Comfortable loose clothing is ideal to accommodate freedom of movement, (IV*) drip lines, dressings or possible swelling from surgery etc.

Elasticised waists are easy. Be mindful that clothing with buttons or zip fasteners may create pressure or sore points on the body when sitting or lying in one position for a length of time.

Clothing that opens at the front may be easier than items that need to go over your head.  Short sleeves and no sleeves provide easy access to arms and shoulders during examinations and blood tests.

Do not pack your best clothing or anything that you don't want to get damaged or lost. I will usually wear the hospital gowns (I am lucky to be petite so they cover me), two at a time (one at the back and one at the front!) until the actual procedures are completed. Only once I am recovering well will I wear my own clothing.

My clothing list includes:

Pajamas:  a minimum of two pairs depending on length of stay. I always pack my favourite satin PJs which feel so lovely against the skin. A bit of luxury goes a long way to feeling better and relaxed.

Dressing gown: for modesty when going to other parts of the hospital and for going home if I am too tired or impatient to get changed first!

Underwear: don't pack expensive lingerie unless the benefit to your spirit and mood outweighs the risk of loss or damage.  
My first knitted socks.

Socks:  As a sufferer of Raynaud's Phenomenon, my feet always get cold so bedsocks are a must! Operating theatres are always cool to keep the machinery at a constant temperature so I will alway wear socks to the OR*, often regular socks underneath my bedsocks!

Slipper socks or slip-on style slippers with a non-slip sole: Hospital floors are dirty due to the many pairs of feet that come in and out.  Even to go from the bed to the bathroom, I will put my feet into slippers so that when I come back to bed, I am not getting all that floor dirt in my clean bed.

Crocheted bed cape with matching
"Retro Bed Slippers"
(Slipper pattern by Judith L Swartz)
Shawl or bed cape: The air-conditioning in hospital can be quite cool, especially at night with fewer people in the building. Shawls and capes are great to cover the shoulders while sitting up in bed without the hassle of sleeves.  They can double as a knee rug or an extra layer over the body or feet at night.

Comfortable day wear may include track pants, stretchy leggings, singlet top(s) and t-shirt(s) and a zip-up tracksuit jacket for outdoor visits to the courtyard garden, common lounges or other public areas of the hospital.

Thongs (flip-flops): for the shower and wet areas. You don't want to slip on a wet floor or take a tinea infection home with you.

"Lacy Cape"
Crochet pattern by Carol Meldrum
Extra bags for dirty clothes and shoes/slippers. 

Label everything! Put your name and record number on as many items as possible if you do not want to lose them.


Items which may bring extra comfort or convenience:

Pillow: pillows seem to be in short supply in the local hospital. There is nothing like your own pillow for a comfortable night's sleep. Remember to use a pillow case that is brightly coloured so it cannot be mistaken for a hospital pillow. Busy patterns will camouflage stains and spills.  Boomerang pillows are bulkier but support the body well.

Own food; e.g., herbal or fancy teas or other drinks, jam sachets, chocolate, sweets or other snacks. Some medicines taste very bad and something pleasant brings welcome relief.

Lip balm or chap stick: If you are fasting before surgery, lips can get dry and cracked. Avoid this by keeping them protected.

Nail file, hand lotion.

Essential oilsa few drops in a tissue placed under a pillow can aid relaxation and sleep or relieve nausea.

Tissues: hospitals inevitably bring tears; it isn't easy.

Ear plugs: if you are a light sleeper, ear plugs may help to reduce the background noise of other people or the beeps and hums of medical equipment.

Entertainment Options

As amusing as doctors think they are, hospitals are very boring, especially for someone like me who does not enjoy or watch much TV.  Most hospitals offer a TV rental service.  If you enjoy TV to pass the time, make sure you have enough cash with you or a credit cardMy eyes get too tired for television but radio talks and documentaries are interesting without demanding much energy.

AM-FM radio: I am an ABC* tragic and a radiophile from a very young age.  Not only does it provide interesting news and music, but the stable volume and rhythm of the radio in my headphones helps to block out the noise of the busy hospital ward. The only drawback is that the AM band can suffer interference from the electronic medical equipment.

Music: again, serves to block out background noise which can aid sleep and relaxation or distraction from pain etc. Remember headphones.

Wi-fi or internet? I don't know if my hospital offers wi-fi internet anywhere. It is not advisable to pack valuables like tablets or laptops even though they would be great for watching movies or internet TV.  How I would love to spend the time reading blogs.

Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon by Kate Bruning
offers "two for one" entertainment:
delightfully detailed pictures
with some small crochet projects too.
Newspaper: a newspaper provides a connection to the world outside the hospital and is cheap entertainment with stories, pictures and puzzles etc. and if it gets left behind or damaged, it's no great loss.

A selection of crochet magazines
and books
with small projects.
Books and magazines: choose easy reading because it can be hard to concentrate.  When concentration escapes me, pretty pictures of magazines are a welcome distraction. "Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon" has lots of pretty pictures.


Back to the original problem: which project shall I pack?

Perhaps I should make some more slippers
just for the hospital bag.

Do you have any ideas for projects or items 
to add to the packing list?

I'd love to hear from you!


ABC: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
IV: intra-venous
OR: operating room
TMI: too much information
WIP: works in progress

Pattern Details

"Lacy Cape" by Carol Meldrum, Easy Crocheted Accessories: 30+ fun and fashionable projects, Sally Milner Publishing, Bowral NSW, Australia, 2006.

"Retro Bed Slippers" by Judith L Swartz, Hip to Crochet: 23 Contemporary Projects for Today's Crocheter, Interweave Press,, 201 East Fourth Street, Loveland CO, USA, 2004.

Raynaud's Phenomenon

NIAMS Raynauds:

Related Posts on Lupey Loops

"Live Well: Organise Your Life", 1 June 2014:

"Sad Sock", 20 March 2014:

"Surviving Chronic Illness: Positive Affirmation", 16 June 2013:

"A Crochet Christmas!", 29 December 2012:


  1. You are very well organized - a lot better than I am! My fingers are crossed that your hospital stay will go well!

    Thinking of you!

    Take care

    1. My fingers are crossed too! I had a 'pre-admission' appointment ahead of time which is an opportunity to discuss what will happen and also to alert the staff of any special needs etc. That went well, so there's no excuses–they know I am coming! :-)

  2. Wow! You are organized. I am so impressed! Hope your stay is short and all goes well. Sending hugs and warm thoughts for your cold feet!

    1. Sadly, very organised through trial and error–have learned a lot over the years. I am not expecting a long stay, all going well. My feet can certainly use your warm thoughts and my spirit appreciates hugs very much. Thank you, Mary-Anne, hugs in return xxx

  3. What a brilliant and well explained list from an experienced patient. Hope everything goes smoothly and quickly and the results are good. I'd go with the slippers for the project.

    1. Thank you, I hope I don't ramble too much! A lot of it is for my own reminding as much as for sharing my learning with others. If the sharing of it saves someone else from horrible times, then it is worthwhile. Of course, everyone's experience is different so it is great to get tips from other people. What works for one, may not work for another so a repertoire of ideas from which to choose is a good resource.
      I also hope things go smoothly. So far, indications are that they are as smooth as they're going to get. Sometimes you have a hunch or inkling about whether things are right or wrong and it all feels good so far.
      Slippers are a logical choice - but which ones??? ;-)

  4. Prepared means comfortable - I hope you are as comfortable as possible while there. I vote for the slippers, very cheerful and practical project! As an aside, I suffer from Raynaud's Phenomenon (Syndrome here), on its own. Not as complex as it is when it's secondary, but my white fingers are commonly seen in all kinds of places (grocery stores, especially). Thanks for posting links and information!

    1. Too right, Sarah! Hospital is not fun but I am going to do everything in my power to make it as comfortable as possible and reduce stress.
      I am sorry that you suffer from Raynaud's Syndrome too. (It felt weird at first to call it 'syndrome' but I am used to it now - do you find 'phenomenon' weird? If it was called 'syndrome' here, I might have been more concerned years ago when someone first identified it as 'phenomenon' . All I heard at the time were the multiple syllables of 'phenononemememeonononon' and promptly forgot the essential first word 'Raynaud's'.)
      Your poor fingers! How many pairs of gloves you must own! My fingers don't go white, just a deathly greyish blue. Do people comment on your fingers when you go shopping etc.? How do you cope with that?
      I hope the info is helpful but let me know if there are some other useful sites that I should included in the links.
      Thank you for your good wishes.
      Jodie :-)

  5. Hi Jodie! Sounds like you are really organized and prepared for your stay! I hope it won't be too long - will you be out in time for Xmas? I would take a whole bunch of yarn and suitable hooks, a yarn needle to sew ends, and scissors, you could make the slippers (which would be useful!) or make another cape like in the photo, it probably won't take that long?! I would do lots of little things, like making some granny squares (take at least 3 colours), that could be made into something bigger once you feel better again... or make some small things like wristwarmers and a hat? (Hope this helps to inspire)
    I get Raynaud's in my fingers when it gets cold outside. I'm totally with you on the bed socks, too! ^^
    All the best, and keep your head up!
    Thinking of you!
    Ingrid xx

    1. Hi Ingrid–love your list! I will be returning to this list every time I am looking for a portable project.
      I'm glad a 'sound' prepared, but really, how prepared for medical procedures are we ever? Only as prepared as we can be and I feel calm and satisfied that everything is ready. Me, us, them! The body is another matter!
      I am sorry that you get Raynaud's too! Maybe I should add a page just for Raynaud's instead of tacking the Raynaud's information at the end of the other pages. I wonder what the other members of the "Raynaud's Club" here think about that idea.
      You think about that while I will think about your list! :-)

  6. Hi Jodie, I just saw that you have left a comment on my blog. I was ill for a while that's why I didn't check before. I am glad that you like my colourful crochet work, it is always good to hear from like-minded people. I am sorry that you have to go to hospital, but it sounds that you are well-organised. I hope that the doctors are able to help you. I cross my fingers that all goes well and that you are home again on Christmas day. Good luck! Viola

    1. Hi Viola, you're the one with the beautiful colourful crochet masthead photo on your blog! Everybody needs to have a look. More importantly, I am so sorry that you have been ill. It is a shame when motherhood gets in the way of finding decent rest and then it takes so much longer to recover and leaves you open for opportunistic colds etc. I certainly hear you!
      Welcome back to the blogosphere. I am so glad you are well enough to participate again.
      Everything that can be crossed is I think–fingers, arms, legs, eyes?!!! hehehe (eyes will be rolling at my daggy joke). So far, the doctors and staff have been kind and very helpful with ideas for managing the stay. I expect to be home well before Christmas, all going well.
      Thank you for popping by. Good to see you here! :-)

  7. I took my laptop when I was in hospital last year for two weeks - that felt like SUCH a long time... - and my partner brought me in a huge selection of movies. They proved to be invaluable, especially at night when I was in too much pain to sleep. I was in a shared ward, so having a light on to read wasn't really on, but I could pop a DVD in and get through the nights with the movies.
    I hope all goes well for you.

    1. Hi Kaz, TWO weeks IS a long time! No wonder it felt like it! Movies are great for passing the time and distracting yourself from pain and other discomforts. That's a good suggestion.
      Did you use headphones? How did you secure your laptop? I would be worried about it getting stolen or having stuff spilt on on it, especially in a shared ward, but then, I am so clumsy. (That clumsiness is why I crochet more than I knit!)
      I am so glad you are well and able to say hello! I am praying that life in your world is not overwhelmingly stressful. You have been in my thoughts since I read recent posts.
      I hope all goes well for you also! Big hugs and love xxx

  8. Thank you everyone for your supportive comments and good wishes...if you don't hear from me for a while, you will know why. I have an Access All Areas post scheduled for Friday to keep people busily thinking and so you don't forget me while I'm gone. [Jodie sings: "don't forget me while I'm gone..." wasn't that a pop song in the 80s? Argh - that's going to bug me now till I remember!] hehehehe
    Ok, you can take your ear plugs out now...
    I'm sure everything will go alright. Everyone is prepared as anyone is going to be and I have faith in the amazing people at the hospital who have saved my life a number of times over. I am very lucky to live where I live and have nothing but gratitude for the expertise of these people without whom, I wouldn't even be here to tell you about them!
    "Have fun. Play nicely. See you on the flipside!" xxxx

  9. I hope everything goes well with your stay in hospital. Your crochet project has to be something small and I suppose with as few colours as possible. What about crocheting snowflakes?

    1. Thanks for your good wishes, Gillian. I like your thinking - small, few colours. Motifs like snowflakes or granny squares are great for instant gratification too.