In November I ended up going to the ER terribly sick. It turned out I had caught an exceptionally rare bug that had turned into a dangerous bacterial infection. (I shall spare you any further details.) I spent 5 days in the hospital. I have a past with hospitals and doctor’s offices since I spent my teenage years needing plenty of medical treatment for a chronic illness. I’ve learned a lot from my experiences and I’d like to share what I have found to be useful. No one likes to end up in the hospital, but it can be a little easier with these tips.
1. Always be polite to your nurses and doctors.
This seems obvious and I’m sure those reading would never consciously have the intention of, “The next time I need medical care I’m going to be a brat about it? But it is amazing how often people are downright mean to the very people they are dependent on for help. It can be hard when you’re miserable and stuck waiting for help, but it only makes it harder on everyone when you’re mean. When it comes to doctors and nurses never forget — when you are nice, they will be nicer to you.
2. Be a nag, but a polite nag.
You have to be your own advocate, or perhaps your spouse, parent, adult child, or friend can be your advocate. When you are ill and need help, but the hospital is busy, often the staff will need to be reminded of your needs. Always be nice about it, but regular reminders will keep you from getting lost in the shuffle of patients.
3. Assume the best.
If the medical professionals say you may be sick with this or possibly that, assume the lesser of the evils. This will prevent your mind from jumping to terrible conclusions, which causes more stress, and ultimately would leave you feeling ridiculous if it is indeed the lesser of the diagnosis.
4. Ask questions.
Once again, you are your own best advocate. The more you know about what you are sick with, how the doctors are treating it, what medicines you are taking, what it is going to take to get you healthy, and what are the long term outlooks, the better off you will be overall.
5. Imagine your favorite food before tests.
Drinking that awful stuff before a CT scan (or similar test) on an empty stomach is rough. Thinking of yummy food most likely won’t trick yourself into it tasting better, but it will help you produce additional saliva which will better wash away the taste.
6. Don’t look at the needle.
It will just intimidate you. Look away, hold a conversation with your spouse, whatever it takes to be distracted. It simply hurts more when you dwell on it.
7. Sleep every chance you get.
The nurses and techs stop by frequently for everything from giving you medicine, to taking blood, to bringing food, to your doctor actually stopping by once in awhile. You will never get a full night’s rest, so get some sleep every chance you do get, whether day or night.
8. Send your spouse (relative, friend, etc.) home to rest.
Unless you could die any minute, you should encourage them to continue to take care of themselves while they care for you. Whomever you have helping you through this ordeal obviously loves you and you feel comforted having them around. But when it looks safe for you to be alone for a few hours, insist they go home, sleep, eat, take a shower, and refresh themselves. Without these basic essentials they are likely to eventually get cranky and then you won’t want them around anyway.
9. Bring lib balm.
Apparently some hospitals keep lip balm on hand and others do not. I always keep some in my purse… and then my purse ended up with my husband when I sent him home to sleep. Hospitals are notoriously dry (which makes sense because humid moisture promotes the growth of bacteria, so for the cleanliness of the hospital the air needs to be dry) and your chapped lips will drive you crazy. Even though you may already be horribly sick and in pain, that nuisance of dry lips will definitely add to your discomfort.
10. Get financial information before leaving the hospital.
If any dispute were to come up with your insurance (or paying out of pocket since many do not have insurance) it is good to already be equipped with contact information.
Those were my top 10 tips for getting through a stay at the hospital. Feel free to leave comments adding your own tips to help fellow readers. We all benefit from each other’s experiences, particularly when any of us has discovered ways to make a rough situation just a little better.