How to Pack for the Hospital

What To Pack For Your Breast Surgery or Hospital Stay

A woman being wheeled into surgery.
A woman being wheeled into surgery. Janie Airey/Getty Images

When you're going to have breast surgery, you need to pack the right things before you leave home. You may be having an outpatient procedure, such as a breast biopsy or a lumpectomy, or you may be an inpatient with a mastectomy or breast reconstruction. In either case, it will ease your stay and speed your recovery to have a well-packed bag.

What Not to Pack for Your Breast Surgery Admission

You will be having some type of anesthesia, so you will need a driver.

This person should plan on waiting for you while you are in surgery. They can hold on to your valuables, such as jewelry, driver's license, credit cards, and cash. Even better, leave your valuables at home, since the nurses and technicians can't keep an eye on those during your procedure and recovery.

What to Bring Along in Your Car

For the trip home, you might like to have some pillows and a blanket handy. Anesthesia sometimes causes nausea and vomiting, so it is wise to stow a plastic wastebasket in the car, just in case. Have some bottled water and tissues or wet wipes ready too.

Be Ready for Hospital or Day Surgery Check-In

Bring your identification, insurance card and your checkbook or credit/debit card along for your check-in paperwork. Some hospitals will also ask if you have an advance directive or living will – so bring a copy of this document, if you have one. Your doctor may have given you admission papers to take along, so bring those if you have them.

Carry a list of your doctor's names and phone numbers, in case you or the hospital will need to contact them.

Bring a Bag Full of Comforts for Overnight Hospital Stays

You may need to stay overnight in the hospital, so bag up some comforting things to help you pass the time and give you comfort. Bring your regular medications, some hard candies, and your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.

Ask about Wi-Fi availability before your admission and whether they allow use of your mobile phone, e-reader, tablet or laptop in the day surgery suite, recovery room, or your hospital room. Bring music, podcasts or audiobooks on your mobile phone or music player and earphones in your bag. Bring along a laptop, tablet, e-reader, novels, magazines, etc. to occupy your mind while you recover. Don't forget your reading glasses if you need them!

Having a makeup kit and some skin lotion can help lift your spirits. Bring a small 12" by 16" comfort pillow with you – these are great for tender underarm incisions, and for keeping a seatbelt from pressing on your chest during the ride home.

Simply Easy Clothing for Your Breast Cancer Surgery Admission

Pack the perfect outfit for your return trip from the hospital. Keep in mind that you may have surgical drains, dressings, and tender incisions. Make comfort your top priority when you choose your clothing.

  • Loose tops that close in front: you may not feel like lifting your arms or pulling on anything over your head.
  • Elastic-waisted pants: not only are these are easy to get into and out of, but also easy for someone to help you navigate.
  • Slip-on shoes with a good tread: if you don't want to bend down and tie up shoelaces, have some slip-on shoes or Velcro-closing sneakers.
  • Front-closing bra with good support: ask your surgeon which will be best for you – a supportive bra, or a sports bra. Your bra may have to fit over your dressings, and having the closure in front gives you more control over getting dressed.
  • Safety pins or post-surgical camisoles: for keeping surgical drains in place, so that they don't bounce around or dangle from the anchoring suture.

Good Packing Gives You Comfort

The thought of having breast surgery can make you anxious and uncomfortable. You will be trusting your body to your surgeon and the nurses, and hoping for the best outcome. Packing for a hospital visit can give you some control over the upcoming experience, and can help you prepare mentally, physically and emotionally. Consider what things may give you comfort and reassurance, and pack those things, along with a good attitude.

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