Its natural to be anxious. Its like that first day at a new school - no matter how many times you have had hospital admissions - each time is new, different, uncertain.
I can walk into a hospital room as a human being, and the second I sit on the bed I morph into a patient. And with that title, that label, comes a raft of assumptions about who I am, who I am to be, how I must be to co-operate, to get well, to be patient. No matter why you are there, suddenly you no longer feel healthy, in control, intelligent, decisive. You are now compliant, accepting, and perhaps a little timid or intimidated.
It therefor takes courage to be the Rebel Patient.
You are still you. However, it takes some preparation to stay feeling like you, to not loose you, to think clearly, to remember. Be prepared and your experience can actually be rewarding both as you become physically healthier, stronger, but also mentally healthier and stronger. And the later is the most important.
Be Prepared 101
Know why you are going into hospital
Try to learn the terminology used to describe your condition and/or procedure. You will most likely meet some familiar faces of the medical profession who recommended this admission, but you will also meet others who do not know you, or condition, or circumstances but will know generally about any forthcoming procedure. They will ask you about your understanding of your situation. Where possible know as much as you can from reliable sources. Don't try and be a 'know-it-all' but do be confident about what you do know, and don't hesitate to check in with the medical professionals about what you don't know. On that note - ensure they explain their answers so that you understand them. Do not let them walk away until you are satisfied that you understand.
Greeting Medical Professionals
Now this is 101 - however, not always a practice amongst medical professionals. So YOU take the initiative if they don't. When ANYONE enters your room - say "Hi, I'm ______, apologies, I didn't catch your name.... and what is it you do?"
It may sound rude at first, insolent even - but rebel patient this is curtesy 101 - medical professionals SHOULD greet you first, inform you of their name, what they do and why are visiting you.
And if they don't, you have every right to ask.
Be You - remember who You are - share who You are - Photos
No matter how long your admission is planned for - take in a photo of YOU and your loved ones. Many of us take in photos of our loved ones to remind us of their support. Make sure you are included in the photo - to remind the medical professionals that you are more than a patient - you are you, you are human, you have interests, hopes, dreams, character, humour.
The best photos are action photos - you DOING something - hiking, reading, partying, biking, having fun with loved ones, travelling, gardening.
These photos also serve another most important role - they remind YOU of who YOU are. If your hospital admission is longer than a few days, this is of vital importance. NEVER forget who you are, and that you have hopes and dreams and family and friends and a life outside of the hospital environment.
101 - support team - a partner, parent, friend - someone you can trust implicitly, a group of people who can relay visit, friends who can sit in one doctors consultations and take notes without interfering too much, or who help you remember what it was you wanted to ask.
Support people - you direct all your positive energy towards the patient. Things might get rough for you too - its important to recognise that - ensure you have SOMEONE ESLE to support you - do not direct your worries and concerns onto the patient you are there to support. (diagram) Comfort In - Dump Out
3. something that smells nice (deodorant, perfume, aftershave....)
4. smart phone and long charger
- (any phone will do if you don't have a smart phone) - this is essential these days to keep in contact with loved ones. On a practical level - informing loved ones about times of procedures, and discharge, on a more emotional level - just to keep in contact with the real world, and to keep up to date with life outside the hospital walls. A smart phone also allows you to watch videos, listen to music, participate in social media (be cautious of this when drugged or feeling overly emotional).
A Long charger means you can keep your phone charging. When attached to charger it is also easier to find in the middle of the night.
5. medications (and list of medications)
- chances are the hospital can provide these, but if you have any more 'unusual' medications then be sure to take them with you - or it can just get complicated. The nurses might take them off you, so they can dispense them to you. Have a discussion with them about this to find a process that works best with you. You might find you start forgetting things, so it is good for the nursing staff to help you remember. On the other hand, they might not dispense them at a time you feel comfortable - so chat with them to ensure everyone is clear and that notes are made in your medication folder.
6. your own pjs
- the hospitals provide one-size-fits-all. Many choose to where hospital provisions, but I find I loose myself in them. I need pjs to feel good about who I am, about my individuality - I personally like pjs that make a statement - but that might be personal preference. Soft slippers, or no slip socks, are also essential when walking on the cold hospital floor, or out of the room/ward.
7. Something to amuse or entertain
- if its not your phone and/or including your phone - maybe a book, a puzzle book, crosswords, magazines, camera, art materials.
I love puzzles, and games on my phone - be even they after a while become tedious. I am a creative person, and as such, like to take drawing equipment, drawing book, a small diy 3d puzzle - over and above entertaining, this becomes a great conversation tool with medical professionals, and yet another way for them to see you as human. I always found the white board markers and created designs on the Medical White Board in my room - just so it wasn't so bland.
- as mentioned above, photos of your life help you to connect with your support team (wherever they live in the world right at this moment), remind you of who you are, and helps medical professionals know you are more than a patient.
During my last long hospital admission I took a total of 36 photos - printed on plain paper, and I blue tacked them to the wall. Photos of me with loved ones, photos of me hiking, photos of me walking the beach, photos of me gardening, photos of me paragliding, tobogganing, boating, fishing - all with loved ones. I moved rooms 8 times during my hospital stay, and every time it took a team of my support people to take down the photos and then put them up again in the new room. They were great conversational pieces, and a really good reminder to me of my goals to get out and live life.
9. Bed linen
Ok - this might be overboard. But after 4 weeks in hospital I was unable to sleep on the plastic pillows - I now take my own pillow into hospital with a brushed cotton cover. If I know I'm going for a long stay, I take an extra blanket. Hospital blankets are made of cotton - not that warm. To keep warm with hospital blankets, they just keep piling them one on top of the other - and they become heavy. A friend made me a quilt - its thin, but warm, and beautifully creative. It changes the feeling of my hospital room. Other times I just take a fleece throw, or an electric heated throw.
10. A sense of humour
There may well be some rough times in hospital. You may met obnoxious nurses and doctors, cleaning staff, and administration people. Keep your smile, keep your sense of humour, sarcasm never works. Have fun and surround yourself as best as possible with the people you do get on with - go seek them out - go for a walk and see who they are caring for today, and have a quick chat in the corridor. Have a laugh - daily.