Friday, March 27, 2009

A Patient’s Handy Guide to Surviving Hospital

Slightly past its best, fallen into neglect, full of old people, knobbly knees on display everywhere, poor food, uniformed staff; despite the obvious similarities hospitals are not to be mistaken with holiday camps. The thought of going into hospital is enough to make most people feel ill. It’s not something you look forward to with relish. Even a short stay can be a boring, frustrating, distressing experience. This is no reflection on the nurses and doctors. They’re amazing. It’s just sitting around for hours on end in stiff hand-me-down pyjamas, with nothing to look forward to except the next injection in your arse and a splodge of lukewarm mash isn’t most people’s idea of fun. So I’ve put together a list of tips that might make your time in hospital a bit more pleasant. These are maybe some of the less obvious things you might not necessarily think of. If anyone else has any top tips of their own, please feel free to put them in the comments section.

Earplugs. You can get them in any good pharmacy. Essential for a good night's sleep. Unless you particularly want to listen to the agonising squeals of a 72-year-old having a catheter inserted at 3 o’clock in the morning, pop a couple of these little foam lifesavers in your lugholes.

Better than sleeping pills. Just take 2 before bed.
Keep a ready supply of chewing gum handy. After your op brushing your teeth can be exhausting. Chewing gum is a much easier way to keep your mouth feeling fresh. And if you’re vomiting a lot, you’re going to need something to take the taste away. (The same applies to hospital food.)

Make sure you’ve got plenty of change. If you’re unable to make it to the shop, then you’ll have to buy your newspapers, drinks or sweets from the trolley that comes round. They never have enough change. Try to pay with a note and they’ll look at you like you’ve just offered them a hundred trillion Zimbabwean dollars.

"Have you got anything smaller?"

Cut your toenails and fingernails. It doesn’t sound like much, but make sure before your op you give your nails a good trim, because afterwards you won’t feel up to it. I made the mistake of not cutting mine and I ended up with the kind of long creepy fingernails normally associated with strange men who live alone, talk to pigeons and never open their curtains.

Get a haircut before you go into hospital.
It’s easier to manage and it’ll just make you feel much better. I didn’t have a haircut and I ended up with the kind of long, greasy, shapeless mane normally associated with strange men who live alone, talk to pigeons and never open their curtains.