When you have children with medical needs, surgeries and overnight hospital stays become something of a given. The first time one of my kids had surgery, I packed a bag for the hospital and thought I’d gone prepared – that is until the next morning when I had to dry my face on hospital-grade paper towels because I hadn’t thought to bring a hand towel. (I also cannot resist telling you that the hospital cafeteria was solely vegetarian and that my husband regretted not knowing this beforehand.)
There is enough to worry about when you go to the hospital without trying to figure out what you don’t know! Here are my tried-and-true tips, most of them learned the hard way.
What You Need To Know About Day Surgeries
The general rule is: The younger the patient, the earlier the surgery. (Typically, 7 AM is the earliest scheduled surgery). This is because patients aren’t allowed to eat or drink for many hours before surgery. We have a rule in our house that if you’re having surgery, you get to hang out in Mommy and Daddy’s bed watching TV until it’s time to leave for the hospital. This helps keep the patient distracted and means the rest of us don’t need to sneak around eating in secret.
Because surgeries are often scheduled by age, some hospitals won’t give you a firm surgery time until the day before the procedure.
Regardless of the surgery time, you’ll need to be at the hospital several hours earlier.
Surgery Packing List
– Insurance Card and Photo ID
– Sweater or light jacket
– Bottled water
– Granola, trail mix or breakfast bars
– Fresh fruit
– Reading materials and magazines (you can leave those for other families)
– Phone charger
What You Need To Know About Staying in the Hospital Overnight
You won’t be sleeping on a bed. You’ll get your beauty rest on a chair that converts into a bed or a window seat bed. It’s as comfortable as it sounds.
The hospital will supply the bedding for you.
The bathrooms in some hospital rooms are for patients only. That means you’ll potentially be using the public bathroom down the hall. Prepare to schlep (see the note on footwear in the packing list below).
If you’ve forgotten a toiletry, ask. Some hospitals have amenities for parents staying overnight.
Most doctors make their morning rounds between 7-9 AM. However, even if they discharge your child during morning rounds, it may be hours before you actually leave the hospital. Factor that into any time calculations you make.
Overnight Hospital Stay Packing List
– Slip-on shoes, or flip flops
– Comfortable pants, t-shirt and sweatshirt
– Toiletries in a ziploc bag
– Hand towel (so you don’t have to dry your face on paper towels)
– Ear plugs
– Breakfast food
Most hospitals, especially children’s hospitals, have child life specialists or other similarly trained individuals. These are people who can: talk to your child about what to expect before surgery; assist the day of with toys, bubbles and calming words; and post-surgery can help your child in the playroom. If your child isn’t feeling well enough to visit the playroom, ask to borrow bedside toys.
Go outside. Hospitals are sterile environments, known for their fluorescent lights and antiseptic feel. To whatever extent possible, get some sun. Eat outside or just go breathe in some fresh air for a few minutes. It will do wonders for you, body and your soul.
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images by Emily Adcox
Jessica Graham is a mom to three kids, ages 5, 6 and 7. People frequently don’t realize their children are adopted, and, given that the older two are only 9 months apart, Jessica’s husband enjoys the impression this leaves. Jessica tends to think this says more about him, than her. She writes about the art of everyday living at In Pursuit of Loud.