Monday, 7 August 2017

What I packed for my stay at Stanmore

As some of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know, a couple of months ago I went into the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore for three weeks. They run a specialist rehabilitation programme for people with a range of conditions that cause severe chronic pain, including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which is what I have. You can find out what I got up to during my three-week stay in my diary posts from Week One, Week Two and Week Three. I’ve had some brilliant feedback from these posts, with the hospital asking me to write a piece for their magazine, EDS UK featuring my blog in their weekly email to members and, perhaps most importantly, other people with EDS messaging me to say how much it has helped them to read about my experiences. That was my aim when I decided to write about my time at Stanmore, so I asked people who contacted me what other posts they might find helpful. I have a few ideas jotted down in my notebook, but one request in particular was for me to talk about what I took with me for my three-week stay.

I must admit this was something I was particularly worried about when I was preparing to go. What would I need? Would I forget something important? Was I taking too much?! So, I thought today I would share with you the things that I packed for the programme. I did add a few little bits in my second and third weeks (we went home at weekends), which I will try and remember to add in, but overall, this is everything I took with me. Some of these things are obviously personal to me, and there may well be different things that you feel you need if you’re going in, but hopefully this will give you a basic idea.

Usually, if I have to pack to go on holiday or into hospital for a couple of nights, I tend to just grab all the things I think I need/use and hope for the best. This time, however, I decided I was going to be super organised and so I wrote a list! I don’t know about you, but I do love a good list. And it definitely helped me to make sure I didn’t forget anything vital. I asked my Mum to look over it with me to make sure she couldn’t see anything I was missing, as Mums are pretty good at that kind of thing!

So first up were my clothes. Of course, I needed the basics, so underwear (enough to last me the week), comfortable trousers, tops and a jumper/cardigan to pop on if I got cold. I also wanted to take a couple of outfits that I could use for my physiotherapy sessions, so I picked up a few pairs of funky sports leggings from Sports Direct and just some plain vest tops, as usually physiotherapists need to be able to see joints and muscles to see how they’re working (or not working!) I also made sure to take a couple of pairs of shoes with me – some trainers and some comfy slip-on pink shoes from Flossy. As well as our physio sessions, I also knew we would have the opportunity to do some pool-based work, so I took a couple of swimming costumes and a towel in my pink Nike sports bag. And finally, I needed to take my pyjamas and slippers. I had thought about taking a dressing gown, but in the end decided against it, as I had a fluffy cardigan I could pop on if I felt cold and didn’t really have the room for a big fluffy gown. But quite a few of the other patients did bring a dressing gown, so it’s just personal preference.

Next up were my toiletries i.e. the best bit of any suitcase! I ended up taking a couple of wash bags, as I had too many things to fit in my Cath Kidston one. There were the basics, so toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and sanitary towels. I then had a lot of miniature products, which are terrible value for money but great if you’re trying to squeeze everything into a suitcase. So I had a Dove shampoo and conditioner, some Champneys shower gel, REN cleansing water, Rodial Dragon’s Blood Hyaluronic Toner, a Witch Skincare Serum, my Origins and then a couple of moisturisers from brands I hadn’t tried before (they came in beauty boxes). I also took some cotton wool pads and Simple make-up wipes with me.

For body care, I had my Dove deodorant and a Body Shop Strawberry perfume to make sure I smelt nice. I knew that hospital environments can be pretty dry, so made sure I packed a couple of different hand creams – one from Baylis and Harding, which smells like Turkish Delight and one from The Body Shop, which is amazing for really dry skin. I also took my lip balm from Bomb Cosmetics and some Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula to keep on top of any issues caused by the hospital air. I did think about taking some make-up, but I don’t wear it much at home unless I’m going out somewhere, so decided I didn’t really need it.

For my hair, I took my Panasonic Hair Dryer, but actually in the end I only ever really used this hair turban from John Lewis - it really works well at drying off your hair and doesn’t fall down like normal towels do. I also took a giant Primark bath towel with me to use after I had a shower, which was lovely as it covers your whole body and makes getting dried a lot easier. As well as all of this, I popped my pink leopard print travel TangleTeezer and some hair ties in my bag too.

We obviously had to take any medication or medical supplies with us, apart from controlled drugs, so those took up quite a bit of my packing space! I had a big plastic box, which contained most of my medication boxes, but I still had a few that wouldn’t fit. They sent me a green bag for it all to go in, but I think they underestimated the amount of medication someone can take when they have a number of chronic conditions! As well as my prescribed pills and powders, I had my inhalers and my Fortisips, which I was allowed to put in the ward fridge to keep cool. I also needed to take my catheter supplies with me, as well as my electric wheelchair, Blue Badge for parking when I was dropped off and picked up and my walking stick. We were given a medication passport, where we had to fill in all of our medication and allergies, but I don’t think anyone ever looked at it!

Although all of our food was going to be provided (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks if you ordered them in the mornings) I was advised by people who had already been to Stanmore to bring some of my own food too, especially because I’m on quite a restricted diet. I started the first week just taking some cartons of juice, cereal bars and salt and vinegar crisps. But as the weeks went on I added to this and brought a couple of different teas and various other snacks to keep me going, as I definitely struggled on hospital food so having my own bits took the pressure off a bit. I also took my big reusable water bottle with me, so I could have lots of water to drink when I was away from the ward each day.

Despite it being quite a full on programme, we still had a fair amount of free time, especially in the evenings. So I packed a few things to keep me occupied such as books, magazines, activity books and colouring books. In the end I didn’t really make a huge amount of use of them after the first few days. I was much more busy chatting and laughing with the other girls! But it was nice to have them there, especially if I struggled to sleep at night.

I’d been told by a few people that we would have various sessions based around the hospital site, so I knew I needed some sort of small bag to carry a few things around with me. I decided to treat myself to this pretty Hype backpack from ASOS, which was just the right size for a bottle of water, my programme, a book, phone and anything else that made it’s way in there over the weeks!

Last but not least were a few miscellaneous, but important, items. I had my purse with a bit of cash in it, as there was a little hospital shop, which sold snacks and magazines (plus we also ordered a few take-aways). I also took a notebook and pens with me for making notes in the sessions. This really helped me to break down the groups and individual sessions in my free time afterwards, and will be helpful for looking back on. Alongside this I took quite a bit of technology with me – my phone, iPad and laptop, as well as chargers for all of them. WiFi and phone signal were a bit patchy, but it was good to have them for watching YouTube videos and taking silly Snapchats with! In the second week I also took along my own blanket to go on my bed, which was nice, as it just made it feel a bit more homely. Other patients had brought their whole duvet set with them and looked really cosy!

So that’s about it for what I packed for my stay at Stanmore. There may have been a few other little things, but I think I’ve gone through all of the main things I took with me. By the end of the three weeks I had quite a lot to fit in the car and bring home, but it helped me feel more comfortable during my stay, which I think was important. I hope it’s helped to get a glimpse of my packing list if you’re waiting to go into Stanmore for their programme, or if you’re going into another hospital on a longer-term admission. And if you’re not, then I hope you’ve still found it interesting to hear about what I took with me and see some of the things I’ve been using.

Are you on the waiting list for Stanmore? What sorts of things do you take with you when you go into hospital? Do you have any questions about Stanmore? I’d love to hear your suggestions for other posts you would like to see!

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