The Ultimate Guide to Survive Hospital Stays
11 tips on how not to lose your sanity during hospital stay
The ambulance arrived within a few minutes, actually two ambulances. I couldn’t move so they had to put me on a stretcher to transferred me to one of the ambulances. The accident happened just 5 minutes away from our house. My husband was there with me just after the ambulance arrived. Unfortunately given the current situation due to Covid 19, he wasn’t able to come with me to the hospital.
Hospital Stay during Lockdown
Arriving at the hospital they took me straight for a scan. They were looking for broken bones and fractures. I was on strong medications. I couldn’t feel much but I knew that I wasn’t able to move. After the scan they took me to the emergency room. The results came back pretty quickly. They told me that I’ll be able to go home soon. The scan didn’t show apparently anything seriously wrong with me. I was so relieved. They called it a miracle (you can read my previous post about miracles in our lives).
Then suddenly another doctor came and told me that actually they did find some splits on my back and do need to consult a spinal specialist. I was confused. First they told me that I’ll be able to go home the same day and a few minutes later that they will be keeping me in the hospital. As confused as I was, I wasn’t able to do anything about it. I couldn’t even move. Given this I knew that something must be wrong and that hospital would be the best place for me in my condition. I couldn’t go even to the toilet, so they had to insert a catheter.
11 tips from an insider
From the emergency room I was then moved to a Covid room whilst waiting for the results from my Covid test. You may think a room just for myself, with TV…what a luxury! Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the TV as I didn’t have my glasses with me. Actually I didn’t have any of my stuff with me at all. When they took me into the ambulance car and my husband came to say goodbye (I was in tears), he took all my stuff with him home. I had absolutely nothing with me. I came to the hospital as they found me lying on the ground.
From one night, it was 11 nights in total in the end and these are the tips from an insider. Whilst I don’t claim to be an expert, my 11-night stay in hospital offers some insights into how to survive hospital stay without losing your sanity. Especially as my hospital stay was during the time that the country was in lockdown due to Covid 19.
1. Be nice
It’s always better to be nice as you never know how long you may have to stay in hospital. Being nice will make it easier for you. Be nice to hospital staff as well as other patients. Being nice to others, they are more likely to be nice back to you. This helped me a lot, especially as I couldn’t have any visitors due to the lockdown.
2. Make friends
Perhaps because of lockdown and not wanting to feel so isolated we really made an effort to be there for each other. We had a good laugh in our ward. The kindness of the hospital staff and the support of other patients helped to make my hospital stay more enjoyable. I really made some good friends. I can’t wait to meet up with them again once we all feel better and the country is out of the lockdown.
It’s better to cooperate with the staff than being stubborn and thinking you know it all. Even though you may be frustrated at times as the messages you are getting may contradict each other. Like in my case when I was initially told I could go home shortly and in the end stayed in hospital for almost 2 weeks. Believe me, working together with the staff is for the best. After all, they are doing their job and they want the best for you. They may also sometimes be frustrated with how things work too. However, they have to follow hospital’s protocol and that’s what they do.
I had a great physio and occupational therapists whilst in the hospital. We worked together to get me into shape. From my first baby steps to using a walking trolley and finally on to learning to walk with crutches. They were also there for me when I started to get flashbacks, a week after the accident. They organised support for me. I received pastoral care and it was so helpful. They arranged my staged return back home as the trauma I went through caused that I was scared to leave my room. That was the only safe place for me, but I wanted to go home so I knew I’ve to overcome it. Being able to face the outside world again. With their help I was able to pass the stairs and car test in order to go back home.
Communication is the key. Play an active role in your care, ask questions and pay attention to the hospital routine. The staff like when patients actively participate in their care, when they show an interest in how things work. Don’t be nosy and rude but do it in a polite and respectful way. Ask about your treatment – you can refuse it if you don’t agree with it.
I don’t like injections and made it quite clear every time I was about to get one. So the nurses started to ask me if I would rather not have one. Then you need to look into the consequences. What happens if I refuse one? What does it do to my body? Check the benefits of it. Consider all the relevant facts when making a decision. I decided to continue with the injections as the benefits outweighed the negatives and slowly got used to it. The best way that worked for me was having a conversation with the nurse whilst she was administering the injection. This sufficiently distracted me. I could focus on something other than the injection. It’s all in our minds. It’s never as bad as we think it will be.
So if you communicate with the staff, they are more likely to help you. If the painkillers don’t work for you, tell the nurse. This was my case too so I had to ask them to change it. Remember they can’t know everything if you don’t tell them. They are also only human.
5. Be patient
You’re not the only one on the ward (unless you’re in a private room but even then, being patient is critical). So sometimes it takes a while for someone to come and assist you. Therefore, if you need help to get up from the bed and go to the toilet, don’t wait until you’re desperate. Press the buzzer earlier. Also notice when the shift changes are as they may not be available then. So better to press the buzzer before or you may be waiting until after the new shift has settled.
6. Accept help
This was something I had to get used to. I apologised so many times for not being able to do things for myself and needing help. However, the nurses always reassured me that this is ok. I wouldn’t be here if I would be able to do everything myself and everything was fine with me. However frustrated you may be that you’re often not able to do even simple things, remember this is temporary. It will get better and, in the meantime, let the others to look after you and be grateful.
7. Don’t compare yourself with others
Comparing yourself and your progress with others is so easy to do, yet so wrong. Remember no one patient is the same as another. It’s not only about our abilities and strengths but also all injuries are different. Just because someone is able to walk within a few days, doesn’t mean that you will be able to as well. Even if their injury may seem similar to yours. Support them and use their achievements as inspiration for your own progress. However, don’t set yourself a timeframe and don’t push yourself to be there just because someone else is. You need to be patient with yourself. This brings me to the next point.
8. We’re all different
As mentioned in the previous point, don’t compare yourself with others. We’re all different, our bodies are different and so are injuries. Everybody also reacts differently to treatments. Remember you’re doing great so be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. You’re making progress every day, even if sometimes it’s hard to see it. What helped me was to keep a journal. I also put my first time achievements into the calendar on my phone – first time I walked to the toilet, first time I sat down on a chair to have a meal, first time I walked on crutches. I also captured when I felt worse, after certain actions or treatments. This allowed me to discuss this with the nurses and doctors without forgetting.
This was the case with the strong painkillers I was receiving as they were the only ones that worked for me. However they had bad side effects on me. Without them however I was in so much pain that it was impossible for me to get out of the bed. So we had to find a balance that would enable me to do my physio exercises whilst also not feeling the strong pain.
You have to also remember that just as all the patients are different, so are the doctors, nurses, all the staff you meet in hospital. We are all human, so we are all different. Therefore the way they communicate, they approach you, may be very different. They all have their own ways, their own style. Different styles of communication, different approaches work for different people.
One of the doctors really upset me as perhaps I wasn’t used to the way he was talking to me. However, a nurse noticed it and comforted me, which was really helpful. He didn’t come across as someone with empathy when this was what I needed then. On the other hand, whilst he was very factual and this approach may suit other patients, it did push me to prove him that he was wrong about me. It was hard for me to move when I was in pain, however this also initiated that we started to look for ways that will work for me. After all I did want to get better and the hospital staff was there to help me. We’re just all different and do certain things differently.
9. Try to get as much rest as possible
This can often be very hard in hospital. Yes, sleep is beneficial for your recovery and you are supposed to get better in the hospital, yet it’s not the best place for getting a good sleep. At least for a person like me who needs absolute quiet when trying to get a sleep. Hospitals are quite a noisy place, night time as well as during the day. It’s not unusual that they will transfer a patient to your room in the middle of the night. Earplugs may be a good idea if they work for you. If you are like me and you can’t stand earplugs (due to my ear problems), then getting a good sleep will be quite a rare thing. There is the noise, pain, light (although you could sleep with an eye mask). Often when I was thinking that perhaps I could have a nap it was time for my physio or lunch time. So learn the routines and try to get a bit of sleep whenever you can. This leads to the next point.
Learning the hospital routine will help you not only to find time for a nap but also to be prepared for other things. Whilst some activities may not have a specific time, others such as mealtimes will. And you would not want to miss those. I wonder that I didn’t put on weight in the hospital – we felt really spoiled! The cooked, fresh and nutritious meals and the different choices. We really couldn’t complain! Knowing the routine will also help you to prepare any questions you want to ask during the doctors’ visits. Remember doctors come only once a day so if you want to ask them something you better prepare beforehand and don’t miss them.
11. Prepare for any setback
The reality is that not everything will go always as you wanted, according to the plan. Remember healing isn’t linear and there are often setbacks. A big one for me was when I got a urinary infection (often caused by catheter). Not nice, especially as you feel you need to go to the toilet every five minutes but you can’t walk properly and getting on/off the bed is so painful. So it is with many drugs. I was taking strong painkillers that were making me sick. Luckily the anti-sickness tablets were helping. However my stomach often then got upset and I so had to take another drug to help with this as well. The best you could do is to accept it, grin and bear it, rather than get frustrated about it. Frustration doesn’t help, only makes things worse.
The last thing I would add would be – bring your own things that would make the stay for you more enjoyable and the time to go quicker. You can bring your own clothes, anything suitable (pyjamas, shirts, depending on your injury/treatment). It may make you feel more comfortable and you may feel better in your own clothes. Although saying this I was brought to the hospital by the ambulance without any of my own stuff. After finding out first next day that I may be there for a few days (it wasn’t clear quite how long at this stage) I asked my husband bring me the most important things. It wasn’t so easy in the lockdown as no visitors were allowed. However he was able to leave my things at the reception and the nurse then brought them to me. I therefore used a mixture of clothes, mine and those from the hospital. They were actually quite comfortable.
I also noticed a patient in the next bed had her own medication as she was allergic to lots of medications. So it’s always a good idea to have your own in cases like this. Whilst as already mentioned, we couldn’t complain about the food, I was glad my husband brought me teas I like as well as cranberry juice (helped with my urine infection). Also having things such as your phone or laptop, books, magazines, Bible and anything else you enjoy to do and will make the time pass quicker, is worth having.
Thank you NHS
So when it comes to my hospital stay I couldn’t complain about anything. I actually even promised to bake cupcakes for the hospital staff once I get better (I baked for key workers during the first lockdown). I am also thankful for all the help after my hospital stay (you can read about it in my first post). It definitely makes me appreciate all the people working in hospitals even more. So when there is a discussion about healthcare and the NHS for me it’s not the organisation but the people. I want to say Thank you to all of them for taking good care of me during my hospital stay in the time of pandemic.
Thank you and till the next blog post,