Surgery – What to Pack for the Hospital

A lot of people ask me what they should take to the hospital and I’m never sure how to answer. We are all different and have different needs, but that’s not very helpful, so I’ll give it my best shot.


I don’t normally bring much because I am hot all of the time and I notice that they keep hospitals very warm. So I usually bring baggy shorts, underwear, sports bra and baggy shirts. I skip clothes altogether until they remove my IVs. However, it is not difficult to feed and IV bag through the sleeve of a shirt if you have some help. Just make sure your shirts have sleeves that are at least 12 inches around. No baby Ts.

Once all of the lines and tubes are gone, clothes get easier. But I never bring too much because storage is limited. I have John or a friend swap for clean clothes every few days. I usually leave a basket in my bedroom of items he can bring. He’s not real good at “You know the one with the pink flowers, not the blue background though…” This basket is a great option for any ‘just-in-case’ clothes as well.

I always ask about the shoe situation. If I’m on crutches, I bring running shoes. The only time I ever wore slippers was after my C-section.


Now is probably not the time for War and Peace, even if you have already read it twice. You might be fine, but odds are that you will be uncomfortable and have difficulty concentrating. I have been known to read the same page 6 times before giving up on my book. Now I stick to simpler things. Here’s what I usually bring for the hospital – post op.

  • Magazines, lots of pictures, short articles. This is a great time for fluff. I can browse and look without too much reading.
  • Music, on a personal device with headphones.
  • Books of short stories or small articles
  • Newspapers
  • Crosswords, but no Sunday New York Times, the easy ones
  • Notepad and paper
  • Coloring books, before they were cool
  • Audio-books and podcasts, nothing too intense or serious
  • Credit card – to buy TV, phone and WiFi privileges

I usually stick to uplifting or funny topics as much as possible. Things that make me feel good. This is not time to worry about war and famine; there’s enough time for that when you are strong again. Technology has reduced this list considerably, as I can now get most of this on my tablet.


I know the hospital feeds me, but not well, and not what I like, so I always pack a few things of my own. I have never had a restricted diet though; you should always check that first.

  • Fresh fruit. I love it and it loves me. Especially when I am taking pain medication, I need the fiber. A small bag of oranges usually gets me through 5 days.
  • Juice boxes, apple specifically. I have a hard time drinking enough water and I find mixing it half and half with juice and adding ice helps. Juice boxes are small enough to fit in my drawer and add to water as needed without spoiling.
  • Crackers are a necessity if, like me, medication makes you nauseous. I wake up every morning an eat a couple as soon as I sit up. Breakfast usually doesn’t arrive for at least an hour after I wake up, so for me, these are a lifesaver.
  • Prunes, see oranges.
  • Granola bars, in case I can’t eat the food.
  • Breath mints or gum


This one is pretty easy. Anything you need to feel clean and presentable from a hospital bed. I don’t need much.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
  • Hairbrush and comb (go easy on the product if you can’t shower)
  • Deodorant
  • Wet wipes
  • Tissues
  • Lotion, lots and lots of it (the air tends to be dry)
  • Lip balm

I always have a friend or two on stand by in case I forget something. I can always ask them to bring me anything I haven’t thought of, but with the one locker and two drawers I have had at most hospitals, I try never to pack too much.

Check out my last post in this series:  Surgery – What to Do Before
Check out my next post in this series:  Surgery – Hospital Check In