What to bring to the hospital when having bariatric surgery

  • A typed list of the medicines you take
  • Chapstick
  • Toothbrush
  • Hair brush
  • A robe
  • Loose fitting gym shorts
  • Open back non-slip slippers
  • Pictures of family and pets
  • Important Phone numbers
  • Your insurance card
  • Sweat pants and a top
  • Your CPAP machine
  • Reading or other glasses
  • A copy of your living will
  • A copy of your power of attorney
  • A fan (if you like sleeping with one)
  • Your favorite pillow and blankie

What NOT  to bring to the hospital

  • Cash and credit cards
  • Computer
  • Heavy reading material
  • Any nice clothing
  • Jewelry (including your wedding ring)
  • Contacts

Dr Terry Simpson at weight loss operating room door with tools - cartoonGetting ready to go to the hospital is both an exciting and a frightening time. The house is ready, the refrigerator and freezer are stocked, and your bills are taken care of. You have updated your will, your power of attorney, your living will, and kissed everyone that you can think of.

Usually the hospital stay is a short one, but there are things you can bring to make yourself more comfortable. First, bring some personal hygiene products. While the hospital can provide you with some of these, most people prefer to have their favorite toothbrush, hairbrush, razor, and other items. The air can become a bit dry at the hospital, so be certain that you have some Chapstick. Contact lenses can be more of a pain than not, so wear glasses instead. My female weight loss surgery patients tell me that you might as well forget to bring a bra—which I have.

Every nurse will ask you what medicines you take, how often, and what allergies you have. So, type out a list. Include the drug name, the strength of the drug, how many you take a day and when. In fact, make several copies of this list so the hospital has one and you have one. You have no idea how much time and aggravation this will save.

Modesty is a State of Mind, Butt…Hospital gowns are rarely the right size

Our hospital is committed to the bariatric program and always orders the larger hospital gowns, but we find that once they are sent to the laundry we never see them again. I was on the obstetric ward (baby delivery) and saw one of our robes there—the mommy-to-be seemed to be enjoying it. For a bit of modesty it is always nice to have your own robe. Do not bring a robe that you care about—in fact, remember that this robe might become soiled with any number of body fluids, or medicines, or who knows what. You might even consider taking a spare robe.

Modesty is not a high priority in the hospital, and the hospital gowns are designed to be able to get to parts of the patient’s body quickly. We have to be able to get to the IV sites, the surgical wound, and any other site with ease, and the gown allows the nursing staff to do that. Anyone who has spent time in the hospital realizes that his or her rear end is probably public display. I had knee surgery in the hospital where I was a surgical resident. Everyone in the hospital knew me, as I had been there since I was an intern, so when I came back from the operating room onto the floor I had a nice steady stream of visitors to wish me well.

I had been placed in a machine that kept my knee slowly moving, and was a bit groggy. The resident who was on the “pain” service had the same operation a few months earlier and told me not to worry, he would make certain that I had plenty of pain medicine. My brother stopped by and brought a six-pack of beer (more about this later). Between the Demerol and the beer, I was not feeling any pain from the operation. Later that night, a nurse from another floor stopped by to say hi and said, “Dr. Simpson, you’re kind of hanging out there, let me fix that up for you.” I learned that often times in the hospital, you really don’t care as much about modesty as you would normally, and honestly, it isn’t an issue. Maybe it was the painkillers, maybe the beer, but modesty is a state of mind. Still, visitors in the hall might not appreciate your disregard for modesty so you might want to wear your own robe as you make laps around the nursing station.

Do not bring cash, checks, credit cards, or anything of value to the hospital…

…including your jewelry. You don’t need it, it can be stolen, and there are a lot safer places than your hospital room. You do need your insurance card and perhaps some form of identification. You will not need to write checks while in the hospital—write them out before you leave for home.

Some weight loss surgery patients bring their cell phones to the hospital. This is not a good idea. Some hospitals expressly forbid cell phones (although my favorite hospitals are the T-mobile hotspot hospitals where you get great cell phone reception and have wireless internet service). Cell phones are easily stolen, and better left at home with a message saying you are out of touch for a few days (tell them there is no signal from where you will be as Edmund Hillary didn’t leave a cell site there). In addition, there is some evidence that cell phones interfere with certain hospital equipment. Again—you don’t need it. There are always those who insist on bringing their cell phone, and if you do, that is fine—and some hospitals don’t have a problem with weight loss surgery patients using their cell phones, but where you will really need your cell phone is at home.

Heavy reading material, work from the office, your personal laptop…leave all of that at home

This time is about you and your recovery from weight loss surgery, it is not about anything else. This is your time. You will not have the energy, the ability to concentrate, or the desire to do the most mundane of tasks. Some people don’t believe that. To say that Monica was driven would be a bit of an understatement— this nice lady strove for excellence in everything she did and decided the best way to become pregnant was to lose 140 pounds. She was a lawyer with a busy schedule, a lot of clients, and she worked all the time, so she brought some legal briefs and her laptop (since we were a T-mobile hotspot hospital she had a fast internet connection). She never opened her laptop, didn’t look at a brief, but walked a lot. Monica is still driven, but mostly now by her newborn son—weight loss surgery is sometimes too wonderful for words.