The 7 Things You Should Bring To The Emergency Room

I’m pretty sure that being a patient in the ER isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone. You’ve got the smell of iodine mixed with the smell of saline, mixed with the smell of Lysol. You’ve got nurses who could give a shit if you’re bleeding from your eyeballs. And you’ve got other eye-ball bleeding patients sitting all around you.

I’ve figured out a few things to make the experience a little less dramatic and a little more comfortable. Here’s a list of things you should do and items you should grab (if you have that option) before heading to the hospital:

1.      My number one rule: Shave your arms. If you have a chronic illness and find yourself in the ER often, this is a MUST DO. Okay, I know that sounds weird and irrelevant, but you’ll thank me later. Nine out of ten times that you’re in the ER, you’re going to get an IV. Needles don’t really phase me—but when they put that clear bandage over the whole mess—you just know that it’ll have to come off eventually, and boy is ripping that sucker off going to hurt! Shaving your arms (and stomach and chest—even if you’re female) can be a big relief when the time comes to pull EKG stickers or IV tape off.

2.      Big, Fuzzy Socks and Slip-On Shoes. Hospitals are cold. Like limb-numbingly cold. For good reason, of course. Cold temperatures = kill germs. And that’s a good thing with the sickest people in town all sharing one air filter. But what’s good for your health may be torture for your toes. Usually hospitals will supply you with socks if you ask, but they’re not that thick and having your own pair is usually more comfortable. Slip-on shoes are also a big plus, what with getting  in and out of bed to use the bathroom. (Bed pan, what bed pan?)

3.      Entertainment Devices. If you’ve got one, and you are not coming to the hospital alone, bring your laptop. If you’re heading to the hospital without an escort, you’re going to have to leave the valuables behind since you’ll usually be changing rooms for tests. But if someone is going to be accompanying you it’s great to have a laptop, DVD player, Kindle or Nook to keep your mind off things (just don’t watch any medical dramas.)

4.      Glasses/Contact Lenses/Retainers: Maybe you’ll get lucky and only have to stay in the ER for a few hours. Maybe you won’t be so lucky and you’ll be admitted upstairs for the night. If that happens (and usually after several long hours it does) you’ll want to have the most necessary items for sleep already with you. Having to have someone run back to the house for those items can be a real drag—especially when visiting hours are over.

5.      Snacks and Drinks: Have you ever had an emergency room turkey sandwich? I have. Plenty of them. They’re probably the driest, most tasteless sandwiches ever served—but after hours of waiting for the go-ahead to eat, you’ll chow down on anything. Save yourself the hunger pains and bring a snack and a water bottle from home. You won’t be able to consume them before the doctor approves it, but you’ll at least have a better snack option than dry turkey and soggy bread.

6. Cheat Sheets: When you rack up enough frequent flyer miles at the ER, you’ll start to tell them the answers before they’ve even asked the questions. Take the process one step further by writing down symptoms and medications on index cards and putting them on a key ring. You’ll buzz right through triage and you’ll be organized for each doctor and nurse who asks you the same 20 questions.

 7. Patience: When you have a chronic, sometimes undiagnosed illness, you have to remember that not all doctors will be able to help you cure it—and most won’t even try. It’s hard to swallow when you’re in the ER and you’re struggling with painful, urgent symptoms. You want help, and you want it immediately. The fact is that you won’t always get that help: even if you need it NOW. And that’s scary. And it’s okay to be scared. It’s in those moments that you have to have patience not just with the doctors, but with yourself. Maybe you won’t be the perfect patient at that point, when you’re suffering and doctors are telling you there is nothing they can do to stop it. Remind yourself that you and everyone around you is doing the best they can with the information they have at this moment in life.



29 thoughts on “The 7 Things You Should Bring To The Emergency Room

  1. Beautiful website and great blog post! I’ve been reading your website for about an hour now and learned SO much. TY 🙂

  2. I’m going back and reading this (newly found) blog from the start, and I agree with this list so hard, for the most part! But I always take my e-reader with me to hospital, even though 98% of the time I go by myself. It’s a laptop you probably shouldn’t take if you’re alone, unless you’re being admitted. Netbooks and e-readers should be fine, since they can mostly be fitted into shoulder bags, and if you’re alone you’re even MORE likely to be bored shitless while waiting for a doctor to come see you. Trust me on this one, I live alone and go to the hospital alone pretty much always!

  3. Mari

    A pair of clean underwear! My first post-divorce trip to the ER was via ambulance and I ended up getting admitted, and I didn’t have anyone I could trust to go to my apartment and get me some underwear (and for misc TMI reasons going commando wasn’t an option). I had to have one of the Pink Ladies – bless those women – run over to Target and buy me a package of underwear, since the only other option was those mesh maternity things that slide down your bum every time you shift in bed!

    I have an “ER bag” now that I keep in the closet next to the door to my apartment – the personnel don’t seem to mind leaving it on the bed with me as they schlep me from department to department for scans, tests, etc. especially as it is a very distinctive screamingly-purple vinyl zippered tote bag with my last name written on the side in Sharpie (yard sale special). It has a spare charger and earbuds for my phone (since without a charger, the phone is a brick in no time) and e-reader (a spare I picked up secondhand) that hopefully I had the sense to throw in there as I staggered out the door, a couple of pairs of granny panties (pain and buttfloss are not a good combo), copies of my “cheat sheets” (glad to see I’m not the only one with those – I keep it in my phone too, now that I finally upped and got a smartphone I could put/read docs on) and dreary legal stuff like my healthcare proxy, backup bottles of compounded meds so there’s no chance in Hades the hospital will have them and a few herbals for the gastroparesis that are invariably OKed by the docs, earplugs, chapstick, a bottle of breath spray/drops like Binaca since when you’re NPO in that dry hospital air your mouth tastes like ass in about two minutes. A couple of pantiliners (because always, ALWAYS at the worst possible time…). I also carry a little aromatherapy inhaler (like to take down the stress level and cover the horrible smells inevitable in an ER. Last 2 trips to the ER were both >18 hours long, alone, and I’d have lost my mind without my bag.

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  19. A fantastic cup of coffee is the only thing that could make this blog better.

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  22. Don’t eat too much before going to bed.

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