by Shevaun McCreedy from Rare Diseases South Africa

Unlike those who pop into hospitals for routine procedures, such as tonsil removal, wisdom teeth extraction or grommets, and are released the same day, rare disease and chronic illness patients spend a vast amount of time admitted to hospital for procedures, testing and infusions. For many, this could be days, weeks and for some, even months.

There are no better advisors on what to pack in your hospital bag than those who spend extended periods of time in a ward, either the patients themselves, or their parents and family members. We, at Rare Diseases South Africa, chatted to our rare patients and families to find out their top 10 items to include in one’s hospital bag in order to make an extended stay that much more tolerable.

The top 10 items, listed in descending order of popularity based on the number of mentions they received, are as follows:

1. Adaptors (Multiplugs) and Extension Cords

Many hospitals only have a single plug point available for use by patients and it’s often a 3-point plug. Take along a 2-pin adaptor at the very least for mobile phone chargers, but the ideal solution is to pack a multiplug with multiple 3- and 2-pin points. This way you can charge all the necessities (mobile phones, iPads, etc.) and be able to work on laptops while waiting.

2. Powerbank

For unexpected admissions or for longer than anticipated stays, powerbanks are an easy and portable solution for charging the technological necessities if you can’t reach or don’t have access to a plug point.

3. Eye Mask

For those in private wards, you may have the luxury of switching off the lights at your discretion, but for those in shared wards or ICU, it’s recommended you pack an eye mask to block out some of the light when trying to sleep. This also goes for family members who are trying to make themselves comfy in the Lazy Boy chair in the corner.

Wearing Eye Mask

4. Printed Personal Records

For many patients with rare conditions, there are additional complications or secondary conditions which may complicate treatment that doctors and nurses should be aware of. Instead of trying to remember all of these details by heart – and under pressure when completing admission forms – #RareWarrior moms have recommended having a personal record printed, which is updated regularly and stays in the hospital bag, which can be passed to the nurses for ease of reference. Information to include on this record includes:

  • All rare or chronic diseases and descriptions of each
  • Current medications
  • Allergies
  • Previous surgeries and any complications or side effects
  • Doctors and specialists names and contact details
  • Special dietary requirements

5. Coffee

This one came up frequently and appears to be every #RareMom‘s survival tool for the long days and nights. Whilst hospitals do provide instant coffee and usually do have a restaurant, for those spending multiple days and nights in the ward, it can become time-consuming and expensive to maintain the caffeine fix! The solution – pack in those 3-in-1 cappuccino sachets which only require hot water for instant satisfaction! Most also recommend packing your own mug so you don’t need to pester nursing sisters for one each time and possibly even a flask so you can keep a supply of hot water on hand.

Making Cappuccino

6. Sleepover Basics

Hospital admissions may come unexpectedly and no one likes to be without their own home comforts when staying over. Keep a pair of pyjamas, slippers and a toiletry bag in your hospital bag so you always have your hygiene basics with you. Keep a toothbrush and toothpaste, facecloth, soap and wet wipes in your hospital bag as a backup if you don’t get the opportunity to pack and prepare in advance. This goes for patients and family members staying over.

7. Activity Pack

For parents with little ones being admitted, consider keeping a stash of bed-bound activities to keep them entertained. This could include books, puzzles, board games, iPads with educational activities and movies, toys, and books and crayons for colouring in.

8. Headphones and Earplugs

Whilst hospitals do provide earplugs at a small fee in order to watch the TV, if you’re likely to be admitted frequently it may be worthwhile investing in a decent pair of earphones that block environmental noise. Earplugs also came highly recommended for sleep time, particularly in shared wards and ICU or high care in order to block out some of the beeps and noise.

Using headphones

9. Pre-packed Meds

Consider packing a pillbox with your required medication that can stay in the hospital bag in the event of an unplanned admission so you have, at a minimum, a weeks worth of medication with you. Just remember to use and replace meds before their expiry date.

10. Rechargeable Heat Packs

Hospital wards can be chilly and most don’t allow the use of hot water bottles for obvious safety reasons. Some retailers sell rechargeable heat packs which are perfect for aiding with pain management but again, don’t forget your multiplug in order to recharge it!


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