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  • Writer's pictureSally Kalksma

Once a Girl Scout, Always a Girl Scout

You've seen the commercials. You've heard the public service announcements. Are you prepared for an emergency? Sure we're told we should have a flashlight with extra batteries on hand, but are you really prepared for an emergency, such as a trip to the emergency room? 

When was the last time you packed a bag in case you had to go to the hospital? It was probably for a planned procedure, or maybe ladies it was for the birth of your child or grandchild. Most people do not have a go-bag packed for a fast exit, which is beneficial for any type of quick getaway.

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Sally Kalksma smiling in a black shirt sitting in a wheelchair with a nurse behind her in scrubs and a mask.
Sally at the Hospital
Within 4 months this past year, I had two unexpected trips to the hospital, both required multiple overnight stays. 

Chances are, when you're scrambling to get out the door or waiting for an ambulance, the last thing on your mind is packing clean underwear for the next day. I've learned that the hard way. I've had to rely on family members and friends to bring me items that I'd forgotten. Forgetting the necessities makes an unpleasant and unexpected stay even worse! 

One time, one of my angels accidentally brought pajama bottoms with a hole in the backside! Another time, I was brought a phone charger without the wall adapter. As menial as it sounds, these details make a big difference. Especially when your phone is your only figurative window to the outside world (and sometimes even literally you might not have a window view, and if you do it's the roof of the parking garage) you do not want to be in a situation to ration the yellow bars!

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Pink duffel bag filled with emergency hospital essentials like slippers, hygenic supplies, water bottle, phone charge and more.
Sally's Emergency Hospital Go-Bag

Here is what's in my emergency hospital go-bag:

  • Photocopy of my insurance card (both sides)

  • Photocopy of my driver's license

  • A list of all my medications, vitamins & supplements

  • Extra phone charger with adapter. Make sure the cord is long because the wall outlet may be quite far from your hospital bed

  • 2 pairs of Underwear (forget fashion & go with the comfy granny panties)

  • 2 Cami Tops (ladies, the worst is laying around all day and night in a bra)

  • Loose pajama bottoms or sweatpants: 2 pair

  • Loose button-down shirt (for easy wire & blood withdrawal access)

  • Extra T-shirt

  • Socks: socks & more socks for those cold sterile rooms

  • Robe

  • Slippers

  • Extra reading glasses

  • Toiletries: including toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, moisturizer, deodorant, hair brush & ties. Trust me, you don't want to use the complementary toothbrush in the bedpan.

  • Baby wipes: sometimes a shower isn't an option when you're hooked up to more wires than a 1958 telephone switchboard

  • Ear plugs and eye mask to block out roommates who keep the TV on and with the volume up high all night watching reruns of Family Feud.

  • Snacks (I have gotten hangry waiting for a meal I do not want to eat. Just be sure to check with your nurse on call if you can eat what you pack)

  • Water bottle. I hate drinking water out of a Dixie cup with a straw. I have spilled plenty of liquid on my inclined chest trying to angle the straw from the cup—unless you're lucky enough to have a bendable straw.

In the event you know you're going to be staying in the hospital for a while and have a chance to pack ahead of time I suggest adding the following items:

  • Blankets, Sheets & a Pillow (Hospitals aren't exactly 5-star accommodations)

  • Egg Crate Mattress Topper (hospital beds get old fast...within 24 hours you feel as if you need a deep tissue massage)

  • Make-up (yes, you will have visitors)

  • Baseball Hat (yes, you will have visitors and it's way too much of an effort to wash your hair)

  • Books & Magazines

  • Good Toilet Paper (Trust me on this one. Too many days without the good stuff hurts!)

You may think my list is a little excessive but I prefer to be as comfortable as possible while I stay on a piece of plywood with thin sheets that don't reach my toes!

Other things to consider:

  • Be sure to occasionally update your bag for items that may be obsolete, such as a change of meds, a new phone charger, expired food, etc.

  • Don't forget about others. You may want to help pack a bag for an elderly parent, sick friend or disabled neighbor.

  • Be a good host and pack some things for your visitors. While I was in the hospital for a month during my autologous stem cell transplant I packed coloring books, crayons, snacks & beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic...not sure if it was legal, but my guests enjoyed it!)

I hope you never need to grab this bag but if you do, perhaps it will make a bad situation a little better.

— Sally Kalksma


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