Have you ever had unexpected trips to the hospital emergency department before? Maybe you know all too well what it’s like to be caught off guard. Life gets thrown into disarray, best laid plans go out the window, and you’re left feeling totally unprepared. When you need to rush off to A&E, where do you start?
I’ve had numerous A&E trips now, mostly thanks to my insides liking to do the Tango & twist on themselves. When this happened a couple of weeks ago, it was excruciating and I ended up having emergency surgery. When I was rolling around in bed on that morning the last thing I could think about what was to take with me. I was in too much pain and too sick to think straight. After the first one or two A&E trips, I resisted putting together a ‘go’ bag because it felt like I was tempting fate. Now I know better.
It’s not unlike having emergency supplies organised at home incase of a power cut or flood. It’s a bit like what many pregnant women will do to be prepared for when their baby is too impatient to see the world.
Here are a few thoughts on putting something together that can help you feel more confident and prepared just in case such a situation arises. If it doesn’t, that’s brilliant. If it does, at least this may save you a little time and stress on the day.
- Get a spare bag (rucksack, shoulder bag) you can comfortably keep to one side that’s large enough to fit essentials and a change of clothes. I have an old backpack that I keep on top of my wardrobe.
- Pop in a toothbrush holder or ziplock bag. Either one is practical and will serve as a reminder to pick up your toothpaste & toothbrush. If you have a spare toothbrush/paste to keep in there, that’s even better.
- Include a toiletries bag. If you have any sample products to hand that you can put aside, such as a travel shampoo, body wash or body lotion, add those. Wet wipes (for hands/face/body) and hand sanitisers are a lifesaver in hospital, so definitely get those in if you can.
- 2 regular carrier bags. Plastic shopping bags are great for putting in a change of undies and clothes, and separating them from used clothes in the hospital. Having a spare bag often comes in handy when you least expect it. The last time I was in, I was given various stoma bags so I put all of these in my spare carrier to take home.
- Copies of any letters from your GP/surgeon/specialist that may come in usual at the emergency department. I have one from my surgeon to indicate the problems I have with my stoma and what needs to be done when I get to A&E (ie. he states use of a catheter and IV morphine). This can take a weight off your mind that staff will get straight to what’s important when you get there.
- If you have a lengthy history of procedures and specialists, it can help to bullet point some key dates (ie of your procedures), where you had them done & who your specialists are, as the doctors may need to contact them.
- Jot down the contact details for your next of kin / emergency contacts, as you’re likely to be asked for those. It’ll save time trying to find numbers on your phone when you get there.
Write out a list of things to take so that you don’t forget anything. Include this in or on top of the bag where you can see it so you don’t forget to read the list that’s serving as your reminder! Consider the following:
- Important – Any medications / inhalers / medical aids
- Phone, charger, headphones, MP3 player (the latter can be priceless when you need comforting & calming in the emergency department or on the ward)
- Undies / change of clothes
- Pen & a small notebook
- Snacks (especially useful if you have specific dietary needs; I’ve taken small packs of plain biscuits and crisps before which have been useful in the days after I’ve been admitted when hospital food hasn’t been suitable)
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Mints / gum
- Loose change in a small coin purse (avoid taking all cards & cash or expensive valuables)
- Medical cards / ID if required
It’s also worth letting a close friend, relative or partner know where you keep this bag just incase you’re caught out needing to go to A&E from another location rather than directly from home as they might need to collect your belongings for you.
Having a few things put together and a bag to hand so that you can throw in the essentials quickly can save a lot of time and effort when in pain and ill and needing to get to the hospital. I find having a list incredibly important to speed up the process and ensure you don’t forget anything, giving you some reassurance and peace of mind at what can otherwise be an incredibly stressful time.