Surviving Hospitalisation: Make the stay pleasant (5 of 7)

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Ameena Meer is a writer and single mother of three girls living in New York City, who runs her own advertising agency.  As a person who went through traditional cancer treatments for several months and was also hospitalized for other illnesses in the past, she thought it would be useful to create a guide to navigating the medical system when you’re stuck inside.  This is an excerpt from her blog www.amazonsofnyc.blogspot.com 

How To Shrink Your Hospital

ameena meer overcome choriocarcinomaIt’s still a hideous proposition if you must stay in hospital, but there are ways you can make it more bearable, maybe even pleasant. Sometimes it’s as easy as a list of things that you might bring, or have friends or relatives bring, that makes it feel more at-home.

Your Decor

If you have to go to the hospital regularly, like for chemotherapy once a week, try and always bring some fresh flowers with you when you check in. You can’t always count on friends and visitors to bring you flowers and it’s so nice to have a bit of nature in the room. Again, if your treatment makes you feel ill around plants, skip the flower.

vase with flowers
Flowers can cheer up your room

I always get flowers with a nice fragrance because it makes the smell of rubbing alcohol and chemicals less omnipresent. Almost any flowers are better than nothing.

They say experiencing nature is calming and clears the head but you can’t really bring a forest in there. When things are tense, you can gaze at the life and light surging through those bright green leaves and petals and feel a little transported. (Be considerate of your roommate though. If he or she is feeling queasy, you might have to move the flowers out of range or take them away all together.)

I also brought a deep purple cashmere throw that my sister-in-law Soraya gave me. It covered the twin bed perfectly. It changed the color scheme, from beige and white and those weird prints that are on hospital upholstery, to something more cheerful. It was cozy too. Sometimes those cotton blankets feel thin and ineffective and other times, they get weird and tangly and sticky and you can’t seem to get them in a comfortable place.

I once brought in a scented candle. The nurse kindly let me light it for about two minutes but then I had to immediately blow it out because the oxygen tanks could have exploded (who knew?). So scented candles are right out. If you don’t have a sickly roommate, a small bowl of fragrant ‘pot-pourri’ may be best.

Your Entertainment

I guess you could bring in a CD player but if you had a roommate who hated Mozart, you would have to use headphones. I brought my laptop, headphones and a lot of really silly comedy DVDs.

Since chemotherapy made me spacey and stupid, I watched ridiculous things with lots of slapstick and simple story-lines (my mind wandered like crazy). Laughter is known to increase the strength of your immune system and movies were a great way to time-pass (as they say in India!)

I didn’t bring books or magazines since it was difficult to read. The chemotherapy also made me dizzy and I couldn’t focus on the page; all the words turned into little rows of ants.

Your Snacks

nuts in a bowl
Some healthy snacks can make your day better

Bringing your own snacks is key. During my chemotherapy, I was trying desperately to change my diet to lots of organic vegetables, live foods and anti-oxidants.

Also, let’s face it, the food is horrendous in almost any hospital. I wanted something that had taste and texture, too. I recommend eating organic even more emphatically while you’re having chemo or radiation or surgery. Your body is already being bombarded by chemicals, toxins and shock. It needs to be fed and nurtured gently.

Also, hospitals give you food at specific meal times and it takes forever from the time you’ve asked for it till it gets there. And once you’re hooked up to the IV (intravenous) drip, it’s a drag to get around.  If you’re likely to be hungry before or after meals, it is wise to bring snacks.

Bring stuff that you can put in that big drawer beside your bed. That way you can get them yourself without having to ask anyone or having to unplug and push your stupid IV all the way down the wall as you try and find the pantry. Tortilla chips. Raw almonds. Dried fruit. Something healthy, that works for you.

I found that chemotherapy made me crave sharp, strong tastes, which countered the nausea (which I feel, just thinking about it). I was fortunate to have access to a small fridge and I usually kept a box or two of fresh, organic blueberries, and some almond or coconut milk. I could add the fruit and nut milk to my oatmeal for breakfast or put the milk in my tea.

I’d ask my visitors to bring me a fresh green-vegetable juice from the local juice bar rather than cookies or chocolates. I’d also ask for salads a lot, but as my chemotherapy progressed, I found it hard to chew anything rough because of all my mouth sores. If I was really nauseated, I could eat tiny bits of iceberg lettuce which made me feel better. Ice-water was good for nausea, too. (Ugh, I feel awful just thinking about it).

Last of all, it’s nice to something to offer your visitors something too. I’d bring some organic rice crackers and maybe even cookies or chips for my kids. Though honestly, most people are so creeped out by being in a hospital setting that they decline any snacks at all.

Reflection

  • Hospital stays can be monotonous. How can you cheer things up?
  • Can you incorporate little things like flowers, frames or anything else that make you feel better?
  • How can you keep yourself occupied and engaged? Consider, films, reading, writing, drawing, colouring, meditation or something else that you find comforting and energising.

More from this series

Title About the article
Part 1 As a person who went through traditional cancer treatments for several months and was also hospitalized for other illnesses in the past, Ameena Meer thought it would be useful to create a guide to navigating the medical system when you’re stuck inside.
Part 2 I am not a doctor, but I want to offer people the basic stuff I’ve learned through years of experience as a successful patient.
Part 3 Unless you are a wealthy, high-profile celebrity, you will not get special attention at a factory. Which is pretty much what a hospital is.
Part 4 The idea is to turn your big, scary hospital into a small, loving place. You want to make it a place where they will really look after you. You can even become a cheer-leader for everyone else along the way.
Part 5 It’s still a hideous proposition if you must stay in hospital, but there are ways you can make it more bearable, maybe even pleasant. Sometimes it’s as easy as a list of things that you might bring, or have friends or relatives bring, that makes it feel more at-home.
Part 6 All this stuff may seem absurdly expensive given your circumstances, but I suggest you invest in it anyway. It makes you feel chic and aristocratic and helps you continue to behave in a dignified fashion. And in the end, it will be the way you treat the people who help you that will make all the difference.
Part 7 This is one tip that may not practically affect the tone of your stay, but it will ease your mind and help you feel like you are part of the process

 

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