I see many people on public forums and social media asking about what to pack for their hospital stay when having surgery for Chiari Malformation and so I thought I would make a little post about some items which help ensure that my hospital experiences are a little less... rubbish! It would be wonderful if anyone wants to add other items you find useful, just pop them in the comments. There are a few more little bits and bobs that I have added below the 'top 7'. I believe that the key to packing your hospital bag is to make sure everything you take will make you feel comfortable and a little more as though you are at home.
1. Water based face cleanser and extra large cotton wool pads.
These were my saviour for keeping my face clean and refreshed before and after my decompression surgery! When you are quite literally attached to your bed because of an ICP monitor or a CSF drain, the last thing you will be doing is getting up to wash your face. For the first few days after surgery I was unable to lift my head from my pillow and with all the drugs being pumped into me combined with the hospital air con, it's hardly a surprise my skin seriously suffered. Luckily I treated myself to a bottle of 'Ren 3-in-1 Cleansing Water', it is perfect for sensitive skin, unbelievably refreshing and smells divine. Luckily I had my mum by my bedside everyday and she kindly cleansed my face for me meaning that by the time I could move myself I felt clean and a little more refreshed. I'd also like to add that this is a really great product to invest in for everyday, not just for hospital stays. Chiari, along with other chronic illnesses can make you feel extremely tired and it sometimes hits us the hardest in the mornings, so this is great for those days you just really can't be bothered to do the whole wash, cleanse, tone and moisturise routine (also great for mid week hangovers!).
2. Neck Cushion
I got the idea of taking a neck cushion to hospital with me from my sister who said it was a saviour for her, particularly on the journey home from hospital and in any car journeys thereafter. I found that the neck cushion was impossible to use for my neck when I was in hospital, which I know sounds strange as it's in my top 7 essentials but it was a huge help for another reason. After the decompression surgery I was quite surprised to see that I had a very unpleasant looking tube coming out of my head which left me feeling really uncomfortable lying on my back or on my left side at all; this is where the trusty neck pillow came to my rescue! I used the pillow to prop in between my knees and because it was much firmer and thicker than the hospital pillows, it relieved a huge amount of pressure on my spine, arms and legs - making an all around far more comfortable experience. Not to mention the car journey home was made ten times more bearable.
3. A good lip balm
Being indoors for a fairly long period of time with constant air conditioning fan over your bed whilst consuming a large amount of drugs, it is inevitable that everything is going to shrivel up like a prune! This is why a lip balm is a definite essential.
It really isn't the end of the world if you don't own a tablet but if you do and you know you're going to be in hospital for longer than a week, seriously consider taking it with you. I had a CSF leak and therefore had to go in four days before my operation and this could get pretty damn boring. Even with a television, there is only so much day time TV a person can take before feeling like you're loosing your mind! Download some good brain training aps - brain training is really good especially for Chiari sufferers - memory problems springs to mind! I also found that starting a new box set was quite a treat as this was the first time in a long while that I had the time to sit around and get into a new series.
5. A grown up colouring in book
Yep, honestly, they are amazing! Even if you feel like it's the last thing on earth you would ever consider buying, once you get into it, they are such a naturally relaxing past time and again just like the downloading a box set, this is probably the only time you can really unwind and release your inner child!
6. Non slip spongey slippers
These could go without mentioning as most hospitals request that you bring these anyway but I had to put them in here because they are an absolute essential. Whatever your reason for being in hospital, you are going to need these and the comfier the better! I got mine (pictured) from John Lewis - they were only £10 and super comfy and durable. I've worn them almost everyday for two months and they still look brand new.
7. Button up pyjamas
Absolute must have when going in for brain surgery and for you a long time after, maybe even forever! If like me, you are in for more than 3 days post op you will really benefit from these little garments of joy! Lifting anything over your head for the first couple of weeks is pretty much impossible so I would highly recommend getting yourself a nice pair of button up cotton pj's. I got mine (pictured) from Topshop and got a couple of similar pairs but with shorts as I was in for two weeks and there was a heatwave - joyful!
Some other little items that I have found really helpful when staying in hospital...
A toothbrush holder
A tongue cleaner - these strange looking objects are absolutely brilliant, if a bit gross, for mouth hygiene especially when you can't brush your teeth properly and are spending quite some time vomiting, which is inevitable after decompression surgery.
A 'Tangle Teaser' - Unless you are lucky enough to have short hair, after surgery you will find that the thought of brushing your hair will make you cringe and possibly feel a bit sick. My hair become very matted at the back as I was unable to touch the back of my head at all for around two weeks. The tangle teaser is like the hair messiah! It brushes through knots without pulling at all and works so quickly - a great item for everyday life with CM (especially the bad head and neck days).
Comfy pants - Don't think I need to say any more about them other than the last thing you want is a constant wedgie!
Peppermint Oil - Rub a little bit of this magic stuff on the painful areas around your temple to help alleviate the pain and feel fresh and relaxed. Again, this is really good for everyday use, not just the hospital.
I really hope this helps those of you out there who are wondering what to pack. Don't be too worried about entertainment, i'd focus more on the items that make you feel comfy, relaxed and as much as possible as though you are at home. x