Lil Z and I have spent a lot of nights in hospital over the past 18 months, but not one of our overnight admissions has actually been planned. In fact, only a small handful of times actually involved us getting to the hospital independently – we have almost always arrived by ambulance.
Our latest admission, last week, when Lil Z spiked a fever of 41C (or 106F for my American friends), had rigors and was hypoglycaemic and tachycardic, was a classic example. It came completely out of the blue and when I was least prepared – focusing instead on heading out to collect Vegemite from school. However, before the ambulance even arrived, I knew it wasn’t going to be a brief visit.
Anyone who has gone with their child to hospital in an ambulance knows that your mind is most definitely on your child at that moment and nothing else. Paramedics are generally willing to wait for you to get dressed (the Queensland Ambulance Service is worryingly familiar with my pajama selection) and/or pack a bag to head off to the hospital. However, you really don’t want to hold them up – and more importantly hold up your child’s arrival at hospital.
This wouldn’t be such a problem, except the first few times my husband brought me clothes, it was an… ecclectic selection. And we won’t even talk about the time I had to go 24 hours without brushing my teeth due to a forgotten toothbrush…
Fortunately, I am (somewhat) prepared now.
Although, to be honest, after 18 months of this, you would think that I would be better prepared. Yes, I have an emergency bag that contains (most of) the essentials. However, I always seem to forget something. But here is a list of what currently lurks inside my emergency grab bag:
- Several changes of clothes, including loose-sleeved tops for Lil Z – in order to get them on and off over a canula in her hand.
- Warm pajamas for Lil Z – it gets cold on the ward at night!
- Lots and lots of socks – for cold nights and also to prevent Lil Z from scratching her ears off when she’s feeling unwell or unhappy.
- A full change of clothes for me, plus some extra t-shirts, in case of snot, vomit or blood.
- Trackie bottoms – good for sleeping in, but don’t look too much like pajamas if one of the doctors decides to do early rounds.
- My warm and fuzzy “hospital socks” for sleeping
- Shampoo and body wash – hotels are a great source of these
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, deoderant, and a comb or brush – all essential to looking and feeling human.
- Dry shampoo – I thought this would revolutionise my life since finding the time to shower is often a problem on the ward, but my first attempt just made my hair look a bit weird.
- A travel mug – for those caffeine boosts
- Decent tea bags – the tea in the parents’ lounge is dire
- A drink bottle
And the other things that are used too frequently to live in the bag, but should go with us if at all possible:
- iPad – Keeps Lil Z entertained when she’s feeling better and keeps me sane during the intermitable long waits. I’ve also downloaded “Music for Dreaming” which Lil Z listens to each night at home and I play to her in hospital to help her sleep. I am also diligent in making sure I’ve always got at least one unread book on my Kindle app, after being stuck in the past with nothing to read.
- Charger – crucial
- Lil Z’s favourite bunny
- Make up bag – to help hide the effects of a bad night’s sleep
- And of course my phones (personal and work) and purse (to buy hot chips to boost my spirits).
My emergency bag is a work in progress. I can’t take too much because I need a small bag that I can grab and go, but there is nothing more frustrating than realising I’ve forgotten something crucial. My longer term plan is to have a spare charger and make-up in the bag, along with some “purpose-bought” clothes (hospital chic anyone?). Maybe someday I will actually get around to doing it, too…