Preparing Your Child for Medical Interventions: How to Pack for the Hospital

February 4, 2017 February 2017 Feature - Preparing Your Child for Medical Interventions, hospital stays, Medical Momma, Rebecca, surgery 4 Comments

Special needs don’t always equal medical needs. But sometimes they do. Many of our children require therapies, treatments, hospitalizations or surgical procedures. These can be potentially anxiety-producing for any child, but significantly more so for a child with trauma in their past.

So, this month we are focusing on Medical Interventions and how you can best prepare for them. Our hope is to not only help you navigate these potentially rough waters, but for you and your child to come out with a more deeply-formed attachment on the other side.

Our first overnight hospital stay with our newly adopted little one was unscheduled. We were already medical parents. We’d done outpatient procedures, therapies and medical appointments, but this was something entirely different.

There was no thoughtful packing, no considering our daughter’s favorite comfort items or even a toothbrush and clean undies for her mom and dad. Less than two weeks after arriving home from our second adoption trip to China, an appointment with a specialist led to a rushed, immediate admission for infection and sepsis. 

So, with minds racing, blood pumping and tears building, we walked into the children’s hospital admitting office with no packed bags, no trail mix and no beloved pillow. We barely noticed though, as all we could do was beg the Lord for our girl’s life and try to force our spinning minds to understand what was happening.

That overnight stay turned into eight days of trading off night duty and trips back home for shampoo, PJs, tea bags and blankets. We figured out what we needed as we went, and even managed a hospital birthday celebration. It was a crash course in Hospital Life 101. And by the time we rolled our girl out of the hospital in a red wagon, we were loaded down with bags, backpacks, balloons, multiplied faith, new tools in our medical parent toolkit and immense gratitude. 

Now, reflecting back on three years and many more hospital overnights, both locally and hundreds of miles away from home, we are grateful for all the medical parent mentors, who helped us perfect our packing. For those who come after us that face hospital stays, we’d love to help ease your packing worries.
My biggest advice? Be lavish. This is not the time to enter into a minimalist packing contest. 

Zip some comfort into your suitcases and don’t look back. 
Yes, you’ll need socks and toothpaste, but think chocolate, favorite beverages, fuzzy socks, and chamomile tea for you and teddy bears, lovies and stickers for your child. 
For your child.

Bring beloved comfort items like blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. They’ll need PJ sets, slip on shoes (Crocs or slippers), and fun socks. Also, depending on the length of stay, bring entertainment such a sticker books, Color Wonder marker sets, nail polish, Legos, Play-doh, bubbles and a toy doctors kit. 
Most children’s hospitals have playrooms, child life specialists and volunteers hoping to bring comfort and smiles to your child. We check out books from the hospital library and borrow toys from the playroom. Between hospital and Ronald McDonald House donations, we usually come home with a new collection of toys. Still, I always pack both new and favorite small toys to entertain and pass the time. 

For you.

Bring comfort items like your favorite pillow, blanket, some chocolate, chapstick, lotion, comfy layered clothes, and slip on shoes. Also, bring an IPad, a book and some magazines. Depending on your hospital, you might also want to consider your own towel, a sleep mat (we skip this), and shower flip flops.  
Bring snacks such as trail mix, chocolate, fruit, fun beverages and water bottles. Balance fun comfort foods with healthy snacks to keep yourself feeling well. Also bring quarters and dollar bills for vending machines. Your stay will likely be a mix of flurries of attention/testing with a team of medical staff, then hours of downtime, both in the small space of a hospital room. You’ll do lots of snuggling, movie watching, and walking the halls. 

Carefully consider how you pack for your child’s hospital stay. They’ll be emotions, caretaking and loads of information to take in. Be good to yourself and your child. You can download our complete packing list here. If you have suggestions to share, please do. Let’s keep learning from each other.
Courage and solidarity, medical parents.  

4 responses to “Preparing Your Child for Medical Interventions: How to Pack for the Hospital”

  1. Holly says:

    Great ideas and great lists!

    When we had a planned surgery, I also included black paper and masking tape to block the light at night on the window (with permission). Sound machine to block out hall noise but not important noise in the room.

    I also brought a family photo and individual photo of our happy child pre surgery. I put a note on the outside of the door thanking the staff for their great care of our daughter with photos next to it. Instead of seeing our post surgery irritable daughter as just another patient, the photo helped the staff connect to our wonderful daughter!

  2. Karolyn says:

    Great List. For our daughter, it was also a time to bond with us. She knew that one of us was always there for her, a comfort that she wasn’t used too. It was a time to play and amuse us with was lying around, to learn new words or play game with our hands and make shadows. in the dark. It was a time to get to know eah other and trust. Overall a crash course in bonding, a positive experience in an uncomfortable environment.

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