Over 28 years, I’ve had more than my fair share of hospital visits, both as an outpatient and an inpatient and admitted to NHS hospitals and private hospitals. With each operation, I’ve worked out a few tricks to help hospital feel less like a clinical institution and more like a homestay.
I hope you find them helpful.
Bring a hairbrush. Your hair will constantly become knotted, keep brushing it and you will feel more human.
After a general anaesthetic, you might get shoulder pain. This is because lots of gas has been pumped into your diaphragm and the brain sends pain signals to your diaphragm. However, the pain receptors in your diaphragm are the same as those in your shoulders and the signal reaches your shoulders first.
Drink lots of fluids. Your mouth will be dry, you may have ulcers and a sore throat from oxygen tubes. You may sound like a horse. It’s sexy at first, then just sore and annoying.
Bring more lip balm than you think! One for the table across your bed, another for your bedside table. Maybe another in your wash bag. The last thing you want to be doing when you’re in pain is fumbling for something as small (yet vital!) as lip balm.
Bring hand cream and moisturiser. And a small bottle of perfume – all these make you feel more like yourself.
Don’t be alarmed if the site near your cannula swells a little. Check with the nurse if you’re not sure.
You will look and feel like a pincushion. Try to forget about it.
The nurses and your anaesthetist will suggest you try and walk around. Do try. Moving your body helps move the gas around. Hopefully, you can fart it out! Or maybe it will come out in hiccups or burps. Either way – get the gas out (for your shoulders’ sake)!
Make friends with the nurses. Be kind and appreciative because there will be times when you’re in an awful mood and a lot of pain and they will be the ones helping you.
At times, you might feel like you’re pregnant and in labour. You’ll be hunched over a table, a nurse or your mum might be stroking your back, you’re focusing on your breathing. Except, it feels like you’re delivering a failing organ rather than a baby.
If your mother brings you homemade juice, avoid beetroot. Whilst blood is coming out of everywhere, the last thing you want is beetroot-red wee!
There will be plenty of times when you’ll feel like you’re 105 years old. When you feel really down, put the TV on (in your private room if you have one) or bring an iPad and headphones. Distract yourself.
You might have snorers around you – bring earplugs or comfortable headphones if you can. The NHS has a short supply. Private doesn’t have any.
Download a calming noises app; I suggest ‘Relax Melodies‘. Beachy waves and zen tunes block out the machines that go ‘beep’.
You’ll wear tight green stockings throughout your stay. Stretch them before you put them on!! At night, you might be strapped in to leg supports: these are hideous. You will be attached to the bed, tight support wraps will encase your calves and every 20 seconds they squeeze your legs alternatively. Then the machine makes a loud beep. Every 20 seconds. All night long. I have included a picture, which I will no doubt regret!
Sometimes it’s difficult, but try to keep in the end in sight.