What to pack for surgery: The parents



When Martha Grace had her first operation I had no idea what to expect, what life would be like for us as her parents living in Hospital accommodation and spending 18 hours of the day at our child's bedside.

Fast forward through countless hospital stays, we've become seasoned pros. During our first admission, I found myself without a few items which I thought would have made our stay a little easier. Now, I won't go to London without them in my case. Though there is nothing in the world which can make the task of handing over your child for surgery any easier.


Travel Mug - I know it sounds silly, but I get fed up drinking out of polystyrene or paper cups all day (I drink an excessive amount of tea though) Most hospital accommodation don't have tea/coffee facilities in the room either so I always found that making a tea in the parents room and taking it back with me meant I could still enjoy a panad before bed.

Hand cream - You arrive at or need to leave the ward and you'll wash your hands both ways; you'll arrive at their bed space and you'll wash your hands again. Throw in your visits to the canteen to eat and toilet trips - you'll be washing your hands 50 times a day easily. A simple hand cream to slather over your hands before you go to sleep can help keep them moisturised. The cold outside can cause them to crack and cracked/bleeding hands aren't the most hygienic to tend to your recovering child.

Comfortable clothes and shoes - If you're anything like me, you'll spend 18 hours of the day with your child. Tight skinny jeans with a big jumper and heels of any kind are not what you want to be wearing in a ward as warm as Intensive Care. I always find a loose fitted top with a comfy pair of jeans and pumps are what I'm most comfortable in. GOSH have a "bare below the elbow" policy so sleeves which I can roll up are best.

Light jacket - something you can wear over your top to keep you warm if you're walking around the hospital or sitting in the waiting room and isn't too heavy to carry if you feel too warm. You can't wear outside coats at your child bedside.

Books, magazines, puzzle books, tablets - If you're anything like me, you won't have the brain capacity to cope with more than your own thoughts while your child is in theatre. But the days and nights are long, especially while you're waiting for your child to get over the effects of the anesthetic. If you're on the night shift, make sure you download a TV series to watch to keep you company. Nights and days are long waiting around in ICU.

Snacks - I can never stomach full meals when we're with Martha in hospital. I'll eat dinner (usually a microwave meal, and only because Mark and my parents are making me eat) but other than that I'll eat cakes and biscuits with a panad through whenever I feel like something. But it can get expensive, even at the Hospital canteen. Tea is reasonable at £1, but the Latte's that Mark likes are almost £3. I have to have a cake which can also be £3 each. If there are 6 or 4 of us together each time, it soon adds up. We've started buying packs of biscuits and crisps and kept them in Martha's locker and take them out with us to the waiting room to eat. It also encourages Martha to try to eat a little something (more of that in my next post) When you don't know how long you'll be there for - every little helps!

Full-size products - Sounds daft, I know. You're thinking of the weight and space in your case, BUT, they also last longer. The travel sizes are ok for a few days but if you end up needing to be there for a longer than you initially anticipated you do not want the faff of having to leave your child so you can pick up shampoo/shower gel/toothpaste. Also, if we haven't been there as long as we thought and have almost full shampoo/shower gels - we won't take them home with us. We leave them at the parents accommodation ready for another family who unexpectedly find themselves there without the basics.

Hairdryer - I learned this the hard way!  Hospital accommodation ones are rubbish (if they have one) and take ages to dry your hair. When you're in a rush to get back to your child it's such a nuisance. Or if you've washed your hair before bed and you just want to get it dried quickly so you can get to bed ready to be back on the ward early the next day.

Shop loyalty cards - Do a bit of research and look for what shops or supermarkets are near your Hospital and sign up for their loyalty cards. Waitrose is only a short walk from GOSH and we've signed up to their loyalty system and we get a free panad with each visit. We can also choose certain items that we want 20% discount on every few months. It all adds up! We've also been buying our microwave meals from Waitrose and it's been far cheaper and more convenient than looking for a place to go for dinner each evening.

If you're still reading, well done and thank you. I know I tend to ramble, but these are things I only know because we've been there, done that and got the t-shirt. I hope that if you're in the process of making arrangements to take your child for surgery that there's something here that you haven't thought of which might make a little difference.

Good luck.

GM
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