The Struggle Has Ended

Greg Hewlett passed away on January 17th after nearly eight years of battling colon cancer. While we grieve his loss, we are comforted to know that he is with his Lord.

If you would like to leave your thoughts on Greg, please see this thread.

If you would like to make a charitable donation in Greg's honor, please see this thread.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Hospital checklist for surgery

Here is my checklist for what to bring to the hospital if you will be in-patient, particularly for surgery recovery. These things are also good gift ideas for your friend or family member who is going through cancer.

1. Robe. Due to all the tubes going into and out of your body, you cannot really wear anything except the all-purpose configurable hospital gown. And they will be asking you to walk a lot to recover from surgery quickly and without infection. Bring a good robe to wear over everything so you don't moon everybody on the floor.

bear.jpg2. Soft stocking cap. A stocking cap is the best way to quickly regulate temperatue. And it will keep you warm at night. Instead of always relying on nurses to answer your call button and mess with the thermostat every time you get hot-cold-hot-cold, just have that cap nearby.

3. Eye mask. This is the best kept secret for pleasant hospital stays. The lights in a hospital room are never completely out. And even if they are, the door is always opening in the middle of the night. Escape into darkness and try to get some good sleep by using a high quality padded mask. Ear plugs are probably good, too, but be careful - you will want to be able to hear your IV pump beeping. I have an especially hard time doing due to my poor hearing.

4. Comfort quilt. Bring your favorite soft cotton quilt or blanket to lay over your blankets. (You can also bring a favorite pillow-cover, but pillows are not usually allowed or will get lost). They never give you enough blankets and the ones they do are all scratchy. Your quilt will make you more comfortable and the room will feel a bit more like home. I've got an old tattered one my great-grandmother stiched together. I have always brought it to the hospital over the years. It's a Linus thing.

remover.gif5. Medical adhesive remover. The amount of tape and dressings your skin will be subjected to is unbelievable. When they replace them or take them off, the adhesive gum left behind can take days or weeks to get off with soap and water. And the adhesive material can irritate your weak-from-chemo skin. Discomfort also comes from the residue causing your skin to stick to your clothing and sheets. Sometimes, I think doctors and nurses just leave these random pieces of tape or band-aids for no reason at all. Bring a box of adhesive remover pads like these. Get a loving friend or family member to carefully work off all the tape and residual gunk. It's not only less irritating, but is a small way to get "away" from pesty cancer reminders as soon as possible.

6. Small mirror. Useful for all sorts of things - brushing teeth, cleaning face, being able to see skin problems, etc. If you're a guy, you won't naturally have one of these in your purse, so sneak into the makeup aisle and buy one.

7. Itch helps. Anesthesia and narcotics can make your skin itch like crazy. The nurses will offer to give you a sedating anti-itch drug like IV-Benadril. I prefer to keep your mind alert so I refuse the drugs. First, I ease the itching with over-the-counter hydrocortisone (check with the doc first). Also, I will have a soft scratcher within reach. This is also something your loving friend can help with. Get them to gently rub your back with a warm washcloth to relieve the itching. Be careful - once I asked my sister to keep doing this for so long that my skin then got all red from the scratching! (It was still worth it)

8. TV Guide for the week. You'll want to know what stuff is on all hours of the day, when you cannot sleep or are bored and in pain.

9. A big plastic cup. Like the ones they serve cokes in at the ballpark. The doctors tell you to drink a lot and then they give you these dinky little styrofoam cups that tip over everytime you reach your arm across the tray. Get a big favorite cup that you can fill with a big-gulp-sized refreshing gatorade or drink of choice.

10. Take-out menus from local restaurants. People will ask if they pick something up for you on the way to visit. Or bored relatives will keep asking what they can do to help. With menus in hand, you can give them that specific thing you are craving and avoid the hospital food. You can often get the menus from online restaurant web sites.

11. Comforable regular clothing. Aside from what I said in #1 (that with all the tubes and wires, you're pretty much restricted to the hospital gown), in certain cases, you'll be able to wear things like warm up pants, sweat shirts, pajamas, etc. Bring a change or two of your favorite casual wear. Wear it instead of what they give you. It is a way of inner resistance and rebellion against being a numbered institutional subject. And it keeps you thinking the situation is temporary and you're getting out as soon as you can.

12. Index cards with verses. If you are a Christian, you might want to write some Bible passages on cards that you can keep by your bedside to remind you of words Christ has revealed to us - especially to those who are weak, sick, or oppressed in times like these. Psalms are a good place to start. This is a great gift for a close friend who will be staying in the hospital, too.


John said...

Thanks for doing this. During all you're going through, you're still thinking about how to help the rest of us; the gospel has really filled your life.
So, did the loud groan you let out when Romo dropped the field goal placement convince the hospital staff that you could leave the hospital early?
"When you're going through hell ... keep going." - Winston Churchill

Wendy said...

Hi Greg,
Thanks for the great list. I like the idea of the eye mask.
If I could add to your list:
- a pair of slippers or easy slip on shoes for those walks.
- flushable wet wipes or at least 2 ply toilet paper, a luxury for those bathroom breaks. Don't know about your hospital but ours uses 1-ply!!
Glad to hear you are doing so well.

Andrew Russell said...

13. A medical tricorder. This convenient handheld Star-Trek-ism is very useful for performing scans of ones internal organs. It can also be used to administer mild treatments of tachyon radiation. Even though there is no health benefit of tachyon radiation, it does provide a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Most of you out there will not have access to a medical tricorder but by using a time-travel machine, you can pick one up in the 23rd or 24th century.

John Hayden said...

One thing I used to take to my week long chemo visits to Medical City was a cloth foldup chair. I would quickly dispense with the straight back chair and relax (more or less) in something comfortable.
One other piece of advice, look at every label they put on the IV pole. Over 3.5 years of chemo, I caught them trying to give me the wrong stuff 3 times. They don't mind. They don't want a mistake any more than you do.
Know that my family and I are praying for you! Come back soon.