I have been to more hospital appointments than I can remember and spent months at a time in hospital over the last five years. I thought I would share some of my must have essentials for outpatient visits. The best things to wear, take and use, all in one handy blog post.
Try to wear a combination of smart, casual and comfortable.
Smart in the sense that you look like you mean business.
In hospital situations, people with Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain are often made to feel like they are playing victim. It can be very hard to get the right care, diagnosis and help. In the past, I have felt incredibly small and been made to feel weak in a few awful appointments. I now go with my power shoulders on and make sure I look like I am not taking any shit!
Now, I do not mean go to hospital in your office power suit or looking like you are off to a conference….well you can if you like! I am talking about smart/casual, trying not to look vulnerable or unprepared.
Wearing Pyjamas under your coat, looking like you haven’t washed your hair and generally like you just crawled out of bed will give the impression that you aren’t trying.
PLEASE believe me when I say that I know you are trying and how hard it was for you to get up and out for that appointment. I know how painful it can be to travel, I have been there. I also know how much energy making yourself look presentable can use. However, I also know what it is like when doctors look down on you through pitiful eyes, accuse you of not pushing yourself hard enough and then try to label you with depression. Looking like you are trying as hard as you can to function, wrongly often makes the appointment much more positive. We shouldn’t have to hide how we feel, especially when we are feeling really ill, it is a sad fact that people often make their first judgement of you from the moment you walk through their door.
Often the way you are treated is a reflection of how you present as a person. Looking like you are the boss and being a boss puts you in charge. You know your body better than anyone and the doctors/nurses/specialists are there to and are paid to provide a service. They aren’t Gods who decide who is worthy of care, they are there to help you and should be helping you! If you look good, you feel good and you will have more faith in yourself and believe that you deserve nothing but the best, you must never settle for less.
If you feel you have been treated badly or misunderstood by a medical professional, it is your right to report the problem to your hospitals patient liaison service, in the UK we have PALS and if you are really unhappy with your care, the Care Quality Commision (CQC) You also have the right to ask your GP to refer you to someone else or to a different hospital. If that little voice inside is telling you something isn’t quite right, listen to it, that voice is your instinct. Mine has never been wrong and I eventually got the correct answers and care.
Comfort must always come first, you may have to travel far for your appointment and hospitals are often hot and stuffy so you need layers light enough to carry around.
You may have to sit and wait a while, lets face it, they never run on time!
You may also be required to strip off during your appointment either to be examined or to put on a hospital gown, so you need clothes that are easy to remove and put back on again.
Also never forget matching half decent underwear that doesn’t look like its been with you since you first started wearing bras! The underwear is not a must but knowing you aren’t wearing off white, slightly grey knickers with a hole in, will make you feel far less vulnerable and exposed.
You don’t need to spend hours getting ready, it is surprising how much you can dress up a pair of Converse and jeans with a pretty necklace and blazer! You can add a bit of style and glamour to any outfit by picking the right layers and accessories.
I have sourced some ideal looks for hospital visits, combining comfort, smartness and light layering to give you some inspiration.
The next thing to think about is your bag and what to take with you.
I have an A4 folder that accompanies me to every visit. It is full of all my most recent hospital letters and test results, filed in date order. I have learnt time and time again, hospitals rarely communicate between each other and quite often it is down to you, the patient to explain what has been going on. Keeping everything together, makes the process much easier and saves you forgetting any key details about your recent health issues or pain. Having all your information puts you in control, nobody can argue when the facts are there in front of them in black and white.
A good book or magazine is a must, I love taking something like Marie Claire it is full of lots of enjoyable content and thick enough to last the never ending wait in the waiting rooms. I also love any books by Lesley Pearse Lesley brings her characters to life and the stories have me gripped from start to finish, once I am started, I can’t put the book down. My favourite books to date have been Belle and Remember Me
I always take my lip balm, hospital air really dries my lips out. My trusted lip companion is always Carmex Cherry Lip Balm . I love the refreshing menthol tingle and this always soothes my lips in an instant.
I also like to take a decent hand cream, that medicated soap and hand gel destroys your skin!! I swear by Nivea SOS Balm Rescue and Care Hand Cream This cream is so soothing and leaves a silky barrier on the skin.
I always, without fail take a few VERY important items with me after the worst experience last year.
I have on the odd occasion ended up being admitted to hospital straight from an outpatient appointment. This is fine if it is my local hospital only 15 minutes away, but more frequently I am having to travel to hospitals over an hour away due to needing specialised care.
Last year on one of the hottest days of the year, I had an appointment in Cambridge. I had gone to hospital by myself, asked for help to get the wheelchair out of boot (I was still really struggling to walk at all then) and wheeled myself, boiling hot, to my appointment. I was in lots of pain and really was not feeling well at all. I was covered in a bright red rash and felt like I was on fire. My Pain Physiotherapist took one look at me and was concerned and after seeing a doctor, I was taken to Accident and Emergency. I felt hot and bothered, itchy, sweaty and gross and as I had got there at 11am, by 7pm, I was starving, thirsty and loosing the will to live!
I ended up being admitted over night to be monitored.
By the time I got to the ward, it was midnight and I went into a little side room.
I had no phone charger so no communication with the world.
Nothing to eat or drink other than the jug of water in the room.
Eventually the lovely nurse brought me a sandwich and yoghurt in but the only one they had left was corned beef. I hate corned beef with a passion, what on earth is it?? It smells like dog food and don’t get me started on the white crud all over it?!!
The worst part of that night was not having anything to wash with and not having any pyjamas, all I had was the by now sweaty and horrible clothes I had been sat in all day!
I had to wear two hospital gowns to sleep in, one the right way round and the other back to front to hide the split at the back that shows your bum off to everyone! Well if you have ever tried to sleep in these things when you aren’t out of it from anaesthetic, you will know they itch and half strangle you every time you move in the bed. If you don’t keep them tied up to avoid said strangulation, you wake up to one boob hanging out, or worse!!
This next part is so cringe but needs must!!
I couldn’t bare the thought of wearing dirty knickers the next day so I had to wash the ones I had on, in the medicated hand soap!
The thought of that night is already making me break out into a cold sweat!!
I had accidently tipped a hospital cup of tea (hospital tea stains like no other liquid) down the front of my fresh white vest, so that had to be washed too.
Now that medicated soap makes your hands dry and sore so imagine what it does for your clothes. Stiff knickers and a crunchy vest the following day, that is what it does to your clothes!!!I rustled every time I moved, I don’t recommend cardboard underwear to anyone!!
I had a shower in the morning, washing my hair with the shower gel in the shower (just as bad as the medicated soap) and tried to freshen myself up as much as possible. I had to put the hand sanitizing gel under my arms for deodorant, this stuff stings, especially if your armpits are freshly shaved!! My hair dried in a crunchy 80’s style fashion and I felt horrendous. I am just grateful to the nurse for giving me toothpaste and a disposable toothbrush, fresh teeth meant everything that morning!!
After I was discharged, I couldn’t even do a fast walk of shame to get myself out sharpish. I had to do a slow wheel of shame in my chair through the busiest and most populated part of the hospital. I had to wheel myself through the food court to get to my car and then ask for help to get my chair back in the boot! I had flashbacks from my youth when I used to party all night and then make my way home, it was cool then but this was far from cool. It was horrendous and from that day on, I vowed I would always be prepared!
I now ALWAYS take clean underwear, a spare top, deodorant, a hairbrush, small makeup bag, my phone charger, book/magazine, lip balm, hand cream, a couple of cereal bars and a bottle of water! I am never being caught short again!
I hope this post has given you some handy tips, tricks and made you giggle.
REMEMBER, preparation is winning!