Packing for hospital: a capsule wardrobe

A key part of S/S 15 Cancer Chic: the Caroline Crimson Hospital Bag.  Very different to, for example, the Dior Saddle Bag, or the Hermes Birkin Bag.  Having said that, a designer hospital bag would certainly not look out of place at the Royal Marsden – and if you really wanted, you could always pop out into Chelsea and pick one up.

For those of you dying to know, my actual choice of hospital bag was a fabulously floral Cath Kidston foldaway overnight bag.  Because that was a reasonable size bag I already had, and I could use the small pouch for toiletries.  Sadly, through overstuffing it with the items below I have managed to pop the zip on both the bag and the pouch, so perhaps it’s time to treat myself to a new one!

The remnants of my hospital bag

The remnants of my hospital bag

The real crux of it all though, of course, is the contents of the bag.  If you google “hospital bag”, you will be presented with approximately 24 million results, and I bet that the vast majority of them are maternity related.  Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that, but rather that when having a baby, being prepared with a bag full of stuff to take to hospital is A Priority.  Because when you stay in hospital, you need various things.  When you are having a baby, you are expecting that.  When you are told out of the blue that you have cancer and are bundled through various appointments and into an operating theatre before you’ve got time to say “floral overnight bag”, thinking about what to take with you isn’t at the top of the list.

However.  There’s a reason that packing a bag is such a key preparation for having a baby.  I was very lucky to have a close friend who, as a doctor, is well-versed in all things medical and brought me all sorts of things for my hospital bag.  When she first mentioned it, it hadn’t even crossed my mind, but every single thing she brought me came into its own during my stay in Ellis Ward.  For those people facing this without such expert intervention, I hope this list will be helpful.

So, I went to hospital and I took (not in alphabetical order!)…

Deliciously non-hospital smelling oil

Deliciously non-hospital smelling oil

  • 3 long nighties (read my argument for moo-moos here)
  • Disposable flannels (very handy for helping to wash but no worries about what to do with a wet flannel afterwards)
  • Fancy shower gel (a gift of Molton Brown, lucky me)
  • Equally fancy moisturiser (great for pampering legs in the brief window when the compression stockings are off)
  • Aromatherapy oil (helps pillows/wrists not smell like hospital)
  • Enormous granny knickers (I actually threw the first pair away)
  • Comfy clothes to wear home (lounge pants, obviously)
  • iPad with headphones (necessary for mainlining Downton Abbey)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (so easily forgotten – don’t!)
  • Facewash and moisturiser (makes you feel much more human)
  • Mouthwash and mints (anaesthetic can leave a funny taste)
  • Dipsticks game (great for making visitors entertain you)
  • Shampoo / conditioner (the item I overheard several other inmates requesting)
  • Boots ultra-slim maternity pads (if you can handle the irony)
  • Magazines (couldn’t concentrate on a book)
  • Any medicine I was taking (antibiotics, surprise surprise!)
  • Lip balm (you really can’t beat Burt’s Bees)

I was told that I would probably be in hospital for a couple of days following my Radical Trachelectomy so the list above might seem like overkill.  However, I ended up being there for six days in the end, and everything I had did come in handy.  There’s something singularly unpleasant about wanting to brush your teeth and not having any toothpaste, for example.  All of the things above helped make me feel much more human during a really difficult time.

There you have it – a capsule wardrobe, including capsules, in a capsule!  Now, about that new bag…

Caroline Crimson x

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