As you may know, I am currently recovering from back/hip surgery. On Christmas Day, 2012 I was hit by a car and have undergone many, many surgeries since then. Needless to say, this is not my first rodeo and I’ve learned A LOT along the way. I have learned what products are super helpful, how to counterbalance some of the side effects of pain killers, and so much more. I hope that me learning lessons that hard way can help even a few people deal with a hard situation with a little more ease. Obviously, my main wish is that no one would get hurt or sick or have to go to the hospital. If you do unfortunately need to stay in the hospital and/or get surgery, I hope that this post will at least be helpful for you. Feel free to always leave a comment on the post or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if there’s any questions that you have or if there is anything that I can do to further help you.
I know that this post is for a very specific demographic and it makes me laugh because its like bloggers who post a ‘what’s in my hospital bag’ post when they have a baby. This would be around my 15th ‘baby’ if that was the case so I unfortunately have a lot of experience and have truly figured out products that help as much as possible. If you have to get surgery or stay in the hospital for another reason, please know that my heart goes out to you and that I am standing on the sidelines rooting for you!
Extra Long Phone Charger: I first got an extra long phone charger for a hospital stay so that my phone could reach the bed and still get charged (hospitals suck so much phone battery) if I needed it (not that I’m ever really up for looking at my phone in the hospital). Then, I became hooked and use this length phone charger all the time. I keep one with my travel bag as well so that I always have a long enough phone charger in a hotel and all of that. I also keep one in my living room that reaches the couch. Whether you are getting surgery or not, this will change your life!
Crutch Pads: If you are on crutches then you NEED these pads. I don’t understand why they don’t automatically give them to everyone when you get crutches. They are crucial for comfort and also just make the actual experience of crutching easier to manage. I can’t even fathom not having these! I (aka my caretaker) puts them in the washing machine every 2 weeks or so and let’s them air dry (try to get it so they air dry while you are sleeping).
Crutch Bag: I also can’t imagine surviving my time on crutches without this bag that I call my “crutch purse.” Obviously, an annoying part of being on crutches is not having your hands to carry anything. Also, I never wear things with pockets while I am recovering because I live in PJs and sweatpants. This bag is a game changer because I can put my phone it it to transport, medicine, a water bottle, ect. I sometimes will also put snacks in a little ziplock bag and place it in the bag to transport. If you’ve ever been on crutches then you know that it’s close to impossible to eat if you don’t have a caretaker who can hand you food, especially if it hurts to sit down or stand up in the kitchen close to the food. This bag is a life saver!
Gel Ice Packs: The soft gel ice packs have been great for my back, hip and pelvic surgeries. Its soft and flat so I can actually lay on it. Icing is so important and so helpful during post-op.
Ice Machine: If you are getting surgery on a limb like your knee, shoulder, ect, then I think that this machine is awesome! It was so clutch for my knee surgeries. They automatically sent me home with it from the hospital and my insurance covered the cost after I had posterior lateral corner reconstruction on my knee. If your insurance won’t approve it though, I would highly recommend purchasing it on your own. Your caretaker can fill it up with water and ice and plug it in for you in the morning and then you have a solid amount of hours of icing that you can do on your own from there since it automatically pumps cold water into the part that wraps around you. It has velcro so you can easily take it on and off for your icing routine. Obviously, the machine gets pretty heavy when you fill it with water and ice so its best for a non-injured person to fill it (and if you’re on crutches you obviously can’t carry it).
Shower Seat: My doctors ordered me this shower seat after my accident and I’ve used it SO much since. It’s dangerous trying to shower while you are really hurt but showering is SO important to me and feeling as best as I can. Obviously, when you are non-weight bearing then you need the shower seat in order to shower at all. Obviously, it would be impossible for me to get in and out of a bath and you’re not even allowed to go in submerged water for a while after getting stitches. The handles on this are helpful for getting up and down as well. Even if you are not on crutches, this seat can be helpful if your balance is off post-op or from being sick due to feeling faint, being in pain, etc.
Commode: If you’ve ever stayed over in the hospital then you probably recognize this fun contraption. They never let me leave the hospital until I can prove that I can walk to the bathroom on my own (even if it involves a lot of shaking and tears and all that fun stuff) so when I get home I use this as a commode with no bucket on top of my actual toilet. If your toilet is low and you are getting back or knee surgery (especially if you’re supposed to be non-weight bearing and not putting your leg with weight down) then this is helpful. It provides you with extra height so you don’t have to sit down as low (easier to hold your leg up too) and has handles, which are so useful for getting up and down on the toilet.
Power Recliner: After my accident, my parents’ generously bought a power recliner for their house, which I moved into. You use a remote to tip it back or lift yourself up. It lifts you almost up to a standing position so I didn’t have to push off to stand up. This was helpful when I had a multitude of injuries at once and I’m so grateful for it. It was also helpful for elevating my knee when I had knee surgeries. With all of my back surgeries though, I’ve needed to lay down flat so I don’t use it. I think that this is an excessive purchase for a singular surgery and would only recommend it if you have to get multiple surgeries or are getting older and think it would be helpful. With all of electronic things, I’m always wary that you don’t want to get dependent on it and instead want to make sure that you are using your muscles once you’re allowed to. After my accident, we had a hospital bed downstairs for around 8 months as well which was helpful since it had electronic abilities. This was good because I went back and forth from the hospital bed to the recliner and could still be in the main living space near everyone. I haven’t done this for my other surgeries though.
Blanket: I think that it’s nice to have a nice blanket in the hospital with you from home. The bedding is horrible in hospitals and its just nice to have something comforting. This is my favorite blanket that I also use at home while I recover and just in my day to day life. Its the coziest and perfect weight!
Pillow: If you experience any back/spine/neck pain then you NEED this pillow. It is worth every penny and more. It does not feel all cozy and delicious so it takes some time to get used to. However, I cannot sleep with anything else. It aligns your spine so well and keeps it stable. It’s a game changer!
Body Pillow: I also could not survive without my body pillow. I have a lot of hip/SI joint problems so my body pillow is so helpful for keeping my hips aligned while laying on my side. It keeps everything in balance and my spine aligned. I have a cheap one but am dying to try this memory foam one one day because I think it would feel great for my hurt knee.
Constipation Remedies: Ah, one of the many joys of surgery! I hate painkillers for SO many reasons but this is one of them. I won’t get into the details of SO many bad experiences that I’ve had with this problem post op. Even without the medication, constipation is still an issue for me when I am recovering because I am not moving enough (and I swing this way to begin with). Even when I don’t take pain killers after a surgery or procedure (I’m really cheap with them and will suffer a lot to avoid taking them), I still have this issue due to getting anesthesia. I think that eating enough and a lot of fiber (even when you don’t want to) is so important. I also have used these products but am not a doctor so I definitely recommend consulting your doctor before using any of them. Regardless though, its so important to advocate for yourself right away about this! They are not nearly aggressive enough in the hospital and they think its not a big deal to not go for a couple of days but a couple of days quickly becomes over a week and then it becomes an issue. Bring it up to them right away that you are concerned about it. I’ve found stool softeners, Miralax, suppositories, and Smooth Moves tea (plus hot drinks in general) to be helpful. Like I said, everyone is different so even when I do all of that for many days, I still cannot go to the bathroom. I would never try all of that at once of course and you can’t do it long term. The one product that I have found to get the job done once I reach the over a week time frame is a magnesium citrate drink. It’s gross but good to know about for the emergency level. Once again, I am not a doctor! I just didn’t know this would be such a problem until I lived it myself and had some scaring experiences so I recommend being on top of it before it becomes a bigger issue and talking to your nurses about it.
Nausea Remedies: Another really unfortunate part of taking pain medication and having anesthesia is nausea. There are few things in the world as terrible as being in extreme levels of pain and then throwing up and aggravating the area that you were just cut into. It’s the worst and one of MANY reasons that I rush to get off of pain medication as fast as possible. I’m definitely sensitive to medications and am prone to nausea so I know a ton of people do not have this problem to the severity that I do. I tell the anesthesiologist many times that I am afraid of being nauseous now so that he/she gives me anti-nausea medication in my IV with the anesthesia I also have medication ordered for me in advance so that its ready if I need it and the nurse can get it to me quickly. Obviously, I am not a doctor so if you are prone to nausea as well, just consult your doctor about it. You are your own best advocate! Even if I am nauseous, I make sure to eat when I am taking medication (so aka frequently) because I need something to coat my stomach. I also have found that artificial sugar weirdly has helped me. I eat a lot of Italian Ices during those initial phases (the hospital I go to always has them, I just have to ask for it) and find that the lemon particularly is helpful. I think that the combination of the cold with the sugar is helpful but really I don’t have a true explanation. My dad called them healing ices and would always go get me them because they helped. I also think that Sou Patch kids are helpful..don’t know why haha. Ginger products and crackers with salt are also helpful.
Electrolyte Water: I like drinking PH water in general but I find it particularly helpful when I’m not feeling well. I get really dizzy post-op so anything that can at all help, I’m down with! I love the sports bottle cap on the Smartwater for drinking while laying flat (which is a challenge).
Socks with Grips: Make sure to only wear socks with grips for safety purposes because you cannot afford to slip and fall! I also try to be good about putting on a slipper to get even more traction.
Slippers: These are the extremely unattractive shoes that I wear around my house on an everyday basis (recovering from surgery or not) due to my injuries. They have good support for your joints and make the ground feel less hard beneath you (I find it to be more painful standing on the ground), slide on without needing to bend down to put them on or fix the lip, hugs your foot (has a back) and are super lightweight. If anyone knows any cooler looking shoes that meet that requirement, please let me know because I’d love a more attractive option considering I wear them every single day and even travel with them. I can never find another pair that slides on without me needing to bend down to fix it but still has a back on it.
Face Wipes: Having these face wipes are helpful so that you don’t have to lean over a sink and wash your face. They are also clutch in the hospital when you can’t shower and want to feel cleaner. I recommend buying baby wipes as well for that reason. Always test products in advance though so that you aren’t recovering from surgery and experiencing an allergic reaction to a new product!
Noise Canceling Headphones: If you share a room enough times at a hospital then you are bound to have some stories that you never wanted to have! Even if you don’t have crazy roommates, there’ still a lot of naturally disturbing elements of sharing a room in the hospital. There are also a lot of machines beeping, people talking, and other things that can seem intolerable when you are super sick or in pain. I highly recommend making a playlist of calming music that you like. I also have found the headspace app to be useful. I haven’t liked doing guided meditations in that level of pain post op because its too hard to even focus on words a lot of the time but I like the sounds feature for sleep in the app. I think that there is power in calming music and just trying to relax through the pain as much as possible. My other headphones weren’t cutting it because there was a lot of background noise mixed in and its really easy to feel agitated when you are suffering at that level. Thankfully, my husband has these awesome headphones that he shares with me when I need to cut out exterior sounds and try to get to a relaxed state when I’m in a lot of pain. They are a miracle device! You hit a toggle and its like you are underwater and the outside sounds die down so much!
Baby Wipes: Crucial for the hospital and feeling as clean as possible!
Folder: It’s helpful to have a folder with all of your surgery materials that you take you put your pre-op and post-op instructions in. I have an accordion folder in my filing area that I keep any long term papers in but most of the time I just take pictures of things and store the information electronically. Keep a notes section in your phone to write down any questions that you have as they come up so that you can ask the doctor about them during your appointments. I also have a shared album in the photos on my phone with medical photos so I keep any photos that I take on my phone of scans, wound tracking, ect in there.