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:: This column was originally posted on Endometriosis News ::

If having endometriosis has taught me one thing, it’s that it’s totally unpredictable. I’ve had numerous unplanned trips to hospital where I’ve been caught out and not had anything with me that I need. Over the last few years, I’ve kept a bag at the ready which can be grabbed as I’m leaving or brought in later by a relative.

If you want to get organised and prepare in advance for any impromptu hospital trips yourself, here’s what I keep in my ‘endometriosis hospital bag’.

The bag
The bag itself needs to be sturdy and of a reasonable size. It’s also preferable to have one that is made of a wipeable material as they can get quite dirty.

You don’t tend to get much time to wash yourself in hospital and, to be honest, who really feels like making all that effort anyway!? To save on time and space, you will need to pack the bare minimum. Most toiletry items can be bought in miniature travel size bottles but try to think sensibly and cut back where you can.

The things you cannot go without are: something to wash your face and body with, something to wash your hair with, and, finally, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Instead of packing lots of separates, try buying things that have dual usage. You can wash your face with shower gel. Try a 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner instead of two separate bottles. I keep one single moisturiser in my hospital bag that can be used on both my body and face. You will also need things like lip balm, deodorant and sanitary products. I also like to keep a spare toothbrush in my bag in case a family member has to stay overnight at the hospital with me.

While on a ward you tend to wear nightwear and I keep a few changes in my bag in case my stay is longer than expected or they get dirty. One thing I’ve learnt when it comes to nightwear in hospital, is that you’ll need something that isn’t too warm but covers you. You don’t want to be falling out of your top or have the person in the bed opposite peering up your night dress all day long! You also have to remember that there will be visiting hours and having a lot of people around while you are sat in your nightwear isn’t always that pleasant! A short sleeved top and pyjama trousers are the best option but you could also pack a robe.

You’ll need a change of comfortable clothes for when you leave the hospital. I like to keep this really basic: a t-shirt and leggings are perfect! Finally, you will need plenty of comfortable underwear, some socks to keep your feet warm and a pair of slippers for walking around the ward in. Some people also find it preferable to pack a pair of flip flops to wear in the shower.

Medication and recent hospital notes
Obviously, these cannot be kept in your bag at all times. Keep any important health related paperwork and medication in an easy to find location so you can grab them as you leave the house, or a family member can find them in your absence. However, it’s not essential to take hospital notes with you as everything should be on the hospital's computer system.

Other items you might want to include
I like to keep a few plastic (reusable) bags in my hospital bag in case I have any soiled clothes. Hospitals will always provide towels but you could pack one in your bag so it’s there when you need it. Some hospitals have access to wifi and bedside televisions which require a prepaid card, and there are sometimes little carts going around each day that sell snacks and magazines so it’s helpful to keep a small amount of cash in your bag in case you want to buy anything, or in case any of your visitors need change for car parking or food. You could also keep a few snacks and a bottle of water in your bag.

You can follow my Endometriosis News column here.