I do not usually do how to pieces because I find them presumptuous but in this case since I am going on two weeks in hospital this time and have spent months in hospital in the past I actually do feel like an authority on the subject.

Hospital Stay Survivor’s Guide

  1. Do not ever go into hospital if you do not absolutely need to is the number one priority.  Unfortunately like most uninsured Americans I have less choice when choosing my entrance into the medical system.  Outpatient and home care are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the care provided by the healthcare industry and in many cases you will not have to go to hospital.
  2. You are your own healthcare manager (if you are healthy enough).  Use the hospital staff and especially doctors as your consulting team rather than let them dictate everything to you.  If you are lucky enough and have a more chronic disease you will find a partner in the medical profession.  In my case a great cardiologist.
  3. Make sure you know exactly what they are going to do to your body whether it’s a new drug for you, test or procedure by asking questions, lots of questions until you are satisfied with the answers.  Most doctors have good analogies they can offer to help you understand in lay terms what they are doing.  After all it’s not their bloody body on the line it’s yours.
  4. Always try to get the earliest time possible for any procedures you need.  Otherwise you will wait sometimes hours and hours in cue which will only make you and your loved ones more nervous.  Doctors notoriously underestimate how long one procedure will take and “overbook” their surgical schedules all the time because they usually only want to perform procedures a couple times a week.  Also the longer you go without food or water before the surgery the longer you will be lucky to suck on some ice cubes after surgery.
  5. Don’t bother being shy.  Everyone has seen it before and being shy just gets in the way of some treatments.
  6. Keep as clean as you can.   It will make you feel much better during your stay.
  7. Once you have accepted a treatment from you doctor go with it but report all side effects.   Most times people with chronic illnesses like myself end up staying in hospital for so long is because of an rare complication or three.
  8. Exercise as early and as often as you can without overdoing it.  Not only will it usually make you feel better during your stay but it should facilitate your discharge.
  9. Even when you are feeling terrible try to be nice to the nurses and staff because they usually do an amazing job.  There are always nurse Ratchet types but most of the time they are grouchy because they are overworked and underpaid.  I’ve seen my share of nurses turn from nurse Ratchets to Florence Nightingales just by telling them how you appreciated what they do.
  10. Try to find you happy place or what I call my moments of zen.  It fucking sucks getting stuck several times a day especially if they draw blood over and over again.  Relax, never look at what they are doing and think happy thoughts.  It really does help.  If you are going to be in hospital for a week or so where you will be giving blood multiple times a day, ask them if you need a PICC line because it will save you tons of needless sticks.
  11. Try to make the doctors from different specialties talk to each other which is difficult at times.  You will usually have specialists from multiple disciplines working on your case and multiple doctors from each practice on your case.  The better they communicate not only the better treatment you will receive but the faster you will get out or sometimes the opposite.  The hardest part is to have all the specialists agree on your discharge, I am living that problem now because one medical group is not communicating to the rest.  When you are discharged it literally is a matter of life and death and during my first long hospital stay I had an overzealous lung doctor discharge me too soon.   Even though this doctor was not treating my most serious ailment which was a cardiology problem because the first cardiologist I had literally died during my stay there was no one in his practice to picked up my case properly.  I ended up in hospital a little over a week later where I finally had a cardiologist champion my case and did literally save my life.
  12. This brings me onto the next thing.  Whatever your most serious illness is try to find a champion for your cause in that specialty.  I literally received life saving treatment because my cardiologist fought the other specialists including some in his group.  If you have any choice at all pick a doctor that will fight for your case.
  13. Get in tight with the dietary people especially in extended stays they will be your savior.  Never take the first thing they offer you.  Have them run down a list of the options because many times you could find yourself nauseous and even this big dog was anorexic (nutritionally speaking) because I just refused to eat the food they gave me because I did not know they had many alternatives.  Even if they run through their list and there is not something you like they are unintentionally holding out on you mostly due to habit so probe them to see if they have more things to your liking.
  14. Ask for fresh fruit for every meal, cold serials, bagels, OJ for breakfast.  Lunch is usually the worst meal of the day so for the most part I would recommend the different sandwiches they usually provide, yogurt, bread, raw veggies, salads etc.  Just try to survive through dinner and try to down their hot meal because it might be the only one you get all day.
  15. Now at least in this hospital the cafeteria food is not that bad.  Hell this cafeteria has Chik Fillet brought in especially.  Regardless of what the doctors say a little cheating will not kill you.  If you want a bagel, some better fruit, a better salad and even a couple chicken nuggets it will help you recover faster.  Moderation is the key in this case.  Very small portions of something you actually like goes a long way into making you feel better.
  16. It’s not a bad thing necessarily but don’t expect the foods you once liked to taste the same.  I guaranty you one of your favorite foods will taste too salty, too greasy or too sweet for quite a while.   When I got out of hospital the first time I had an extended stay I just wanted a bite of my favorite pizza when I got out and it just tasted like it was encrusted with salt.  It may sound like I’m obsessing about food but it is so important for your recovery and state of mind.
  17. Try to keep you mind occupied with a book, music, computer, Sudoku, crosswords, whatever you enjoy.  The TV stations you get usually suck.  Hell I get CNN and Faux News here with no freakin’ MSNBC or ESPN for that matter.
  18. If you are in for an extended stay pace yourself meaning you are going to be stuck their so make the best of it.  The first time I stayed in hospital for an extended period of time I went completely batshit crazy.  I was literally crawling out of my skin and even stopped eating.  All this did was make me more miserable and heal slower.  Thank the gods for Xanax.
  19. During you discharge get a clear list of what you can and cannot do so you don’t end up back in hospital.
  20. NEVER TURN DOWN PAIN MEDS OR SLEEP MEDS.  Your body is going through some deep shit in a hospital and once the pain gets in front of you instead preempting it the lousier you will feel unnecessarily and it will just take that much longer to be pain neutral.  Back in the old days you had to almost beg for pain meds but some positive things have really changed since I had been treated for cancer almost 15 years ago now.  Hospitals, doctors and nurses are much more cognizant of your pain and how it delays recovery.  It finally got through our healthcare system’s thick skull that how a patient feels goes a long way toward a faster recovery.
  21. If you are lucky enough keep your significant other or friends closer.  Being sick sucks and you are going to feel the blues especially if you are in hospital a while.  Talk to people you trust about how you feel, especially if you are feeling mortal for the very first time because you are facing a scary procedure or are fighting a serious illness.  But try what you can not to feel sorry for yourself.  Someone always has it worse than you.  One reason I fought cancer successfully was because of the stories I heard about a little girl I never knew.  See she was a pre-teen.  I’m not even sure how old she was anymore and she went through all the barbaric staging procedures and treatments I did.  So a little voice in my head every time I felt sorry about myself or just felt rotten went back to what that little girl must have been feeling.  I have to admit the one question I never asked myself was, why me?  Because I asked why her?
  22. Be mindful of what your main caregiver is going through whether it’s a spouse, partner, family member or friend.  I know in my case my wife has gone through as much if not more than me psychologically.  Hell she found out I had cancer just a few months after her mother died of cancer.  Caregivers can feel helpless because there is little they can do to fight the worst parts of your treatment or pain.  Caregivers can be overwrought by not only dealing with their emotional attachment to you but also taking on all the stresses that comes from maintaining the home front in many cases with less time, less money and even dealing with cumbersome family members of the patient.
  23. My wife refused to leave my bedside the first time I had an extended stay in hospital.  Your caregiver needs a break so make them go home for their own good.
  24. Listen to your doctors but only if you are comfortable with the treatment they are offering.  Again I cannot emphasize enough how it’s your health on the line not theirs.
  25. Moderation is another key when it comes to diet and exercise.  Now some things you might have to just give up like smoking, alcohol or in my case work but unless you have certain types of diabetes or there is a specific adverse reaction you have like a food allergy or drug interaction with food you can still have what you like in MODERATION.   What you do in moderation cannot kill you.

Staying in hospital obviously sucks and is not easy but I hope this guide makes it easier for you because I know it has made my subsequent stays more tolerable.

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ScheherazadechoiceladyPatsyTkesmarnPepe Lepew Recent comment authors
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Joke time for KQ, eh? Okay…

What’s ten inches long and hangs in front of an asshole?

GWB’s necktie! 🙂


LOL !!! Old joke or not, it’s a riot.


Laughter is the best medicine –

A woman walks into Tiffany’s and sees a diamond bracelet, and as she’s bending over to look at it more closely, she accidentally farts.
The woman is mortified, and fervently hopes that no one heard her little whoopsy.
She straightens up and turns to find her worst nightmare standing behind her – a very handsome salesman.

“How may I help you, madam?” The man asks with the sophistication one would expect in such a high-end store.

The woman is embarrassed, but since the man doesn’t act as though he heard her toot, she asks, “Yes, sir, could you tell me the price of this beautiful bracelet?”

“Madam, if just looking at the piece caused you to fart, you are going to crap your pants when I tell you the price.”

It’s an old joke, but hope it made you smile this morning, KQ.


Fart Proudly!

– Benjamin Franklin


My mother was an RN. I grew up around the health care profession, and I have to say it was a sobering thing to experience even as a child! She frequently dealt with oncology patients in home health. Sadder sights I have yet to see up close like that again.

You mentioned pain medication. After growing up seeing people suffer and noticing that some doctors are more caring about that suffering than others, I’ve made sure since then to find merciful doctors whenever possible. I’m not too keen on taking more meds given how many I already take in my daily life, but it’s very comforting to know that if I should truly need them they will be there.

Ah, Chick-fil-A! 🙂 Hehe. I worked for them in college. Their food is really pretty good. I even have some secret recipes I acquired that I cook occasionally since they don’t have many locations in Kansas I’m afraid, which is ironic since it’s a Christian owned company.

KQ, you have my email addy. By all means write me to talk about anything if you like, especially if it will help you feel more connected to the world outside the walls of your hospital room.

If you have an ftp site I would be happy to upload some audio books for you to listen to when you need a change of pace from CNN.

I presume you’ve got a laptop with you. So, remember that MSNBC can be watched from their website. It’s a great way to keep up with KO and RM if you miss them in the evenings.

You remain in my thoughts. 🙂



KQ: I thanked you last night for the lovely and exhaustive ‘hospital stay list’. Would it be all right if I made a copy of it?

I want to wish you a speedy recovery, too. You have such a good attitude about being poorly and are an example to all.



Dear KQuark – I am so sorry you’re going through this and now, a season when you should be at home. I hope the reference to pizza means you are and that this is behind you? My deepest “heart friend” is a cop in the Midwest who is battling prostate cancer that has metastasized, and I love him dearly but fear terribly that he will not beat it. I know he’s going through this, too – and then fell in the hospital and crunched a neck vertebra. (NO one deserves all that!) I will send this to him, because he will like it a lot. Thank you!

I have a question for all – where is Thelonius? I’ve not seen a post from him in a very long time. Is he OK? I hope so! Does anyone know?

KQuark, I know you’re not religious (I’m not either despite my job) so I will just say you are in my heart. I know we all send you our thoughts and energies to get better and stay better and remain OUT OF THE HOSPITAL!


How kind and caring of you to think of everyone else when you a going thru all of this.
This is a great list and should be kept on hand for anyone facing the Hospital Experience.
I wish you all the best in recovery and healing. Keep us posted


KQuark, as a person who knows “the system” all too well, both as an RN and a patient, I have to tell you this is a brilliant post. I’d like to print it out and share it with every patient I know (family members and people I work with). It’s so full of absolutely practical and realistic advice. I really could hardly add a thing to it, even after having been in this “business” for a long time.

But one thing I would say: you are too kind! There should never–under any circumstances–be a Nurse Ratchet. If any nurse (or other worker) isn’t treating you respectfully and/or taking your needs seriously, please, please ask to see her/his head nurse or supervisor. Don’t be embarrassed to say: “I would like a different nurse assigned to my care. I don’t want Nurse X to enter my room again.” If your hospital is anything like the one I work for, there will be an immediate action taken. And there will be no opportunity for any “revenge” (how un-professional that would be, but people do, of course, worry) by the Ratchety nurse. Sometimes there’s just a bad personality match, sometimes people are having a bad day–whatever–but you don’t have to be the one to suffer for it. It always makes me feel sad to think that there are people who bite their tongues when people are rude, for fear of reprisals. There’s no excuse for staff being snippy with patients–ever. Overwork, bad day, kid who just got pregnant–doesn’t matter. Professionals put all that aside and do their jobs. People who are unable to do that don’t belong in the medical field. And they get weeded out when people refuse to put up with their bad attitudes. So–all of “youze” (as c’lady says)–don’t be nice guys! If you encounter a health care worker who seems to be taking out his/her bad mood on you…go get ’em! You’ll be doing all the other patients a favor. (And the lousy nurse’s co-workers, too, probably! Because these types aren’t great to work with, either, as you might imagine.)

A fantastic article, KQ, and please get out of there soon, feeling much better, of course.


Kesmarn, Thank you thank you thank you for saying this about not putting up with Nurse Ratchet. It brought up a very old resentment of mine against a Nurse Ratchet who had me at her mercy when I broke both my arms in a bicycle accident when I was in college. She was one rip-roaring bitch and had me in tears one day, yelling at me because I didn’t have my arms elevated. It’s many years later and I still hate that bitch!

By the way, this took place in California. I was a college student on my own. I had no money, no insurance. MediCal stepped in and took care of everything. It was wonderful. Thank you, MediCal.


e’cat, those episodes really stay in your memory banks, don’t they? I know that from my own experience, too.

I always thought that there are some professions (elementary school teaching, nursing, police work) people enter largely for one of two reasons:

1. They really want to help people.

2. They really love to bully people.


I could say this on any of the posts today but I think yours may be the most appropriate…

…what an amazing community we have here! I’m just blown away by the genuine concern, knowledge, insights and humor people here share with each other and the world.

Today was another banner day for The Planet, an embarrassment of riches. I feel wiser and more thoughtful for having read all of today’s remarkable articles. And this whole week’s. And the week before…and on and on.

However, KQuark, I have to again say how you continue to amaze me, going through what you have been and still finding the concentration, energy and discipline to write such a well thought out, perennial article.

Thanks again for sharing your keen mind with us and my thanks to all of our members for contributing so meaningfully to this community.



We’re also extremely fortunate because God and His Aunt both chose to speak to all of us. Not every blog can add those two to its list of contributors.

Pepe Lepew

KQuark, Canadians consider it rude not to share your pain meds…

I hope you are OK, man…

I had an out-patient procedure a couple of weeks ago. You make me feel lucky!


I miss you dearly.


Kalima, And I have been missing you, Dear One.
I hope you are feeling well and have a good holiday season.


bito, you break my heart, in a good way. I’m fighting my dragons, I know you are too. Think of you often, God bless.


Hi KQ!

I was wondering if you were in hospital cause I hadn’t seen you around.

Great run down. The biggest one to me is communication. Never let docs make you feel like you are bothering them, or they don’t have the time nor the inclination to satisfy you.

You hired THEM, not the other way around!

Good to hear from you. Writing this is a good way to be a little bit more in control of your current situation I’ll bet!


Thank you for such a thoughtful article, KQuark. I’m hoping you will recover well and be able to return home soon.

Let your family and support system know that I am very grateful to them for the care they provide to you! You are my fellow bluegrass man.


Fantastic post, KQ! A definite case of taking life’s lemons, and turning them into lemonade for others to savor. Really thoughtful of you and very inspirational.


Thank you for the thoughtful post. My best wishes to you. Happy Holidays and here’s wishing you a speedy recovery.