HDYDI: Headed to the Hospital, 10 Things to Take & Know

Oh, I know you’re overjoyed. You’re headed to the hospital with your child. Maybe you’re anxious, relieved, worried, stressed or tired. Girlfriend, I’ve been them all and I’ve got your back. At last count, we’ve had nearly a dozen hospital stays with our children. Some serious, some minor, but all took their toll on our family. I’m hopeful these tips will make your stay just a tiny bit easier and have you home in a flash.

Headed to the hospital, 10 things


  1. Flip flops. Those floors are disgusting. Do not, I repeat, do not employ the five-second rule at the hospital. You can use those flip flops when you or your child showers. They’re super handy to have on hand.
  2. Toilet paper. Let’s just say the hospital doesn’t consider toilet paper important. If you value your hiney, take your own toilet paper.
  3. Egg crate. I’m not sure it’s possible to call the pullout beds in hospitals actual “beds.” The egg crate makes them slightly more bearable.
  4. Electronics charger. The juice will go fast on your phone and laptop. Take your chargers, just don’t forget to bring them home!
  5. DVDs. Our local children’s hospital has a great library of movies, but they may not have your child’s favorite movie on hand. It’s always best if you can take a few from your home stash in case of emergency.


  1. Use texting and emails to stay in touch with family and friends. Often times, your child will be sleeping, in pain or the doctor will be in the room and chatting via a phone conversation just isn’t possible. By encouraging everyone to keep in touch via text and email, you control when you respond. Trust me on this one. In addition, don’t be afraid to limit visitors. This isn’t a social occasion. Your child is sick or recovering and he is your number one priority, not entertaining hospital guests.
  2. Limit vital checks, if possible. When your child becomes stable enough, have the night shift take your child’s vitals once (around 8pm) and then kick them out the rest of the night. There have been many a night when I just got a child to sleep, only to be awakened by the clinical assistant taking vitals. It’s no Hilton for sleeping, but limiting the number of people coming into your room, especially at night, will make for a happier child (and mom) in the morning.
  3. Put a “do not disturb” note on your door. A few weeks ago our youngest had brain surgery. The night before was horrific and when he finally settled in for a nap, I slapped a note on the door that said, “please contact nurse before knocking.” You would not believe how many people that deterred. Our nurse was on board and it made all the difference. Our son finally got a decent stretch of sleep!
  4. You have the right to refuse medications. Yes, yes you do. Often times, a surgeon or specialist will order medications because they are standard protocol. That doesn’t mean your child has to take them all. You know your child best. If your instinct says refuse, or request a different medication, don’t be shy in making the request. On that same note, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider paging the patient advocate. Yes, they exist and yes, they are awesome.
  5. Ask for an itemized bill and hold off on any payments. A hospital cannot refuse you service based on payment. We rarely, if ever, make a payment during our hospital stay. Reason? I wait for the itemized bill. Hospital billing departments make mistakes, often at your expense. An itemized bill allows you to review the charges, contest (if needed) and then they resubmit to your insurance. That extra step usually reduces your payment portion. The last time we did this, we saved ourselves $600. That ain’t chump change.

My most important advice? Ask for help and be humble in receiving it. I’ll admit, I’m a Type A, protective mamma bear and asking for help is extremely hard for me. In many ways, I feel like a failure if I can’t do it all, or guilty for asking friends for their assistance. But you know what? People love you and they want to help. LET THEM. Whether it’s setting up a meal calendar, organizing playdates for your other children, making a grocery run or bringing you a cold Dr Pepper, each act is done with love. With every hospital stay, I am more and more humbled by people’s desire to help you carry your cross. It is so hard to see our vulnerability, but so amazing to see a community at work – all in the name of love.

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  1. verdinalouisa on August 26, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Great advice from an expert!

    God bless you!

  2. Wanda on August 26, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I love the idea about asking for a statement before payment. My oldest daughter is about to have baby #3 and I remember with the 2nd that the Business Office Rep. came in the room and asked for payment while she was in labor! This time I will put my foot down for her!

  3. Renee on August 26, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I’m relatively unfamiliar with insurance and billing here in the U.S. (just getting better at it). I’ve asked a hospital before for an itemized bill before but they acted strange about it — who exactly do I ask for such a statement? I’ve spoken to insurance about this and they say that I would be paying the same amount no matter what the hospital billed and that makes me worried on a few counts, especially since a hospital could potentially submit erroneous items to the insurance knowing this (committing fraud), if that’s even true. It’s all very confusing.

    • Kathryn on August 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Renee, it’s best if you wait until you get home and wait for the EOB (estimate of benefits) from your insurance company. Once you receive that, then call the hospital billing office and ask for an itemized statement. I believe what your insurance company tells you is untrue. Take for example a $3,000 hospital bill. If you find errors (which I’m betting you will) – things like double charges for medications, standard procedures for which they bill, but you may have refused – that may reduce the bill by $500. So, now the bill is $2,500. If you have a $500 deductible and then pay 10% of the remaining, your payment amount went from $250 to $200 + your $500 deductible. I hope that helps!

  4. Michelle F. on August 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    There’s also the trick to call billing and ask for patient financial assistance. Even if you make more than $100,000/year, you’ll be surprised what you can be offered – not always, but often. We’ve had surgeries in the high hundred thousands, and we were granted help even though we assumed we would not be given any (due to income). You’ll never be offered, no matter how desperate your situation, unless you ask.

    Another thing to bring: A spiral notebook. Date each page you stay in the hospital at the top and document anything you’re told by physicans, nurses, etc., and write down all observations when you can. It’s amazing how much you forget when sleep deprived and how much more attentive staff become when they know you’re keeping track of what is being done. Plus, it’s great to be able to tell the doc, “Nope, remember on day 6 when you gave X drug after Y drug. That didn’t end well. We’re not going there this time.”

  5. Mary Gambill on May 16, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    we have adopted 6 medically fragile kids, so needless to say, we have had a lot of hospital stays. A protein bar, heating pad, extension cord, white noise machine, slippers and to always dress in layers (it’s always cold, and you are very likely to get puked or pooped on) are my advice!

    • Kathryn on May 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      Fantastic additions!

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