With Crohn’s Disease, I spend way too much time at the hospital. That said, I’ve been quite fortunate in my Crohn’s journey. Only once did I stay overnight in a hospital, back in January 2010. Otherwise all of my medical tests, treatments, and other visits have allowed me to return home!
Even so, it’s not uncommon for me to spend 6 or more hours dealing with my medical visits. Instead of getting bored, or spending the whole time on my phone, I bring a small hospital bag with me.
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I’ve spent the last 2 years on Remicade. This is a medication administered by IV. A typical appointment looks like:
- arriving 15 minutes early
- checking in and receiving a medical bracelet
- waiting up to 35 minutes for a nurse to call me back
- a nurse weighing me, leading me to my semi-private “room,” and taking my vitals
- my main nurse connecting my IV and taking lab work every other visit
- waiting 30-45 minutes for the lab results if taken
- waiting 30-45 minutes for the pharmacy to mix the Remicade infusion
- my main nurse starting the infusion
- any nurse taking my vitals every 15-30 minutes
- waiting 2 hours and 15 minutes for the Remicade infusion to end
To save you the trouble of counting all that time, my Remicade appointments last anywhere from 3 hours and 15 minutes to 4 1/2 hours. For the past 2 years, I’ve had a Remicade appointment every 4-12 weeks, depending on the severity of my Crohn’s symptoms, other health problems, and my schedule availability.
I guess the upside is that my gastroenterologist is changing my medication, and supposedly my new Entyvio infusion will be much shorter. We’ll see how that goes.
Regardless, I still plan on taking my hospital bag with me to my Entyvio appointments.
Hospital Bag Ideas
If you have Crohn’s Disease or another chronic illness, you might consider putting together your own hospital bag. Keeping a bag full of entertainment on-hand lessens your pre-appointment planning. Plus if you already have a hospital bag prepared, then you won’t need to worry about it for last-minute medical appointments.
What’s in my hospital bag
My actual hospital bag is just a simple canvas bag that my sorority Little gifted to me more than a decade ago. Some things I always keep in my hospital bag. Other items rotate, and a few I use outside of the hospital, so I add those items before my appointment.
- latest issues of Guideposts and/or Prevention
- coloring book and colored pencils
- USB charger
- lighting cable
- micro-USB cable
- external battery pack
- blood pressure cuff
- lavender spray
I also used to pack healthy snacks in a small insulated lunch bag, but now I schedule my infusion appointments during Dan’s lunch hour. He brings me Chick Fil A!
I swap out magazines when I finish reading issues. I use my Kindle a lot, so it doesn’t stay in my bag. Luckily I have multiple charging cables and chargers, so I keep a set of those in my hospital bag. Usually I keep my external battery pack in my purse, but I move it to my hospital bag for infusions. Obviously my purse is still with me at the hospital, but with my limited mobility, it’s easier to keep one bag within reach than two.
The lavender spray is a pillow spray I usually use before bed. During my infusions, I spritz the sheet covering my chair with the lavender spray.
How to assemble your own hospital bag
Building a hospital bag is all about personal preference. What will distract you, or help you stay calm, in the face of stressful medical appointments?
Your circumstances, including the type of medical appointment, will determine the building blocks of your hospital bag.
No matter how much you love your smart phone or tablet, you need to include something else. Certain areas in the hospital have big signs everywhere against using cell phones. Or you might be somewhere that has no service. Here are a few ideas of tech-free entertainment for your hospital bag.
- coloring books and crayons/colored pencils
- small puzzles
- playing cards
- stationery/note cards and pens
- journal and pens
I’ve taken my laptop to an infusion appointment before. Just once. I prefer my IV in the crook of my elbow, which hurts less, but limits my mobility more. I can still use my hand, but I don’t move my arm very much during my infusion. Apparently that makes it hard for me to type comfortably.
- smart phone
- all chargers/cables
I have totally taken my baby blanket and my teddy bear to Remicade infusions before. And a few colonoscopies. I’m 30 years old.
For physical comfort, I’m fine with what the hospital provides (blankets, pillows, warm socks), but you might appreciate the emotional attachment to these items.
- stuffed animal
- baby blanket
- warm blanket
- pillow (regular or travel)
- cozy socks
Honestly, I hope your life is such that you never need to build your own hospital bag for outpatient visits. However, chronic illness is a reality for me and for so many other people. If you have a chronic illness, or a child with one, I hope this guide helps.