Miss Z has a talent for the unexpected. You can plan and organize to your heart’s content, but she’s exceptionally good at tossing a spanner into the works when you least expect it.

In my job, we often advise clients working in high risk locations to have a ‘grab bag’ packed, so you can be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Now, the same applies to Miss Z and me. It’s not always easy to have a bag packed and ready to go. I’m often guilty of scavenging things out of it when I’m at home and lazy, then realizing I’m missing things when I arrive at the hospital. But I’m always grateful that I have one ready when Miss Z is suddenly and unexpectedly heading for the hospital.

Over the years, I’ve managed to hone my grab bag into a lean collection of essentials. It’s not perfect. If Miss Z is admitted, I still have to ask my husband to bring me a change of clothes. (This is high risk in itself as my husband seems to have his own talent for the unexpected – as in unexpectedly finding a top that is too small and has a stain on the front which was lurking, unworn and wrinkled, at the bottom the drawer, and bringing it to the hospital for me to wear.) But at least it will see us through until we know if Miss Z will be admitted or sent home.

My emergency grab bag always includes my top six essentials:

1. A toothbrush and toothpaste. I once suffered through a terrible admission with Miss Z where I had no toothbrush, was unable to leave Miss Z to buy one, and no one was able to get to the hospital to give me one until late afternoon the next day. It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. I now collect the little toothbrush sets they give you on airplanes and stash them in my rucksack, handbags, Miss Z’s nappy bag… as well as in my grab bag.

2. Warm clothes. This usually means a cardigan or hoodie for me, and a flannel pajama top or hoodie for Miss Z. Hospitals in Australia love air conditioning and tend to be freezing. Miss Z in particular, hates to feel cold. And there is nothing worse than sitting in the hospital emergency department, waiting and shivering.

3. Phone charger. My phone is my lifeline to the rest of the world. It’s used to keep my husband and others abreast of what is going on with Miss Z, making sure someone is collecting my older daughter from school, and cancelling appointments we’re missing because we have taken a detour to the hospital. It is often my sole source of passing the time while Miss Z sleeps off her seizure medication. I always make sure I have a few good novels downloaded on my phone for emergencies.

4. Water bottle, snack and feeding tube. Keeping parents fed and watered is not a priority for most hospital emergency departments. However, visits to Emergency also last for hours and you are often unable to leave your child to go off in search of food. A water bottle and a snack keep me going a bit longer. I don’t pack snacks for Miss Z since she is tube fed. The hospital can provide her with formula easily, but it is much harder to track down the right sized mic-key feeding tube, so I try to keep a spare one in the bag.

5. Clean underwear. Similar to brushing your teeth, there are some things that just make you feel a bit more human and able to cope with the world, especially if you have an unexpected overnight stay in the hospital. I used to pack pajamas and a change of clothes for both Miss Z and me, but our bag was too big and cumbersome and it wasn’t really practical to keep all those clothes packed up and ready to go.

6. Miss Z’s spare bunny. Miss Z loves her super-soft stuffed bunnies. She has a variety of them that she cuddles in bed at night. I have a small bunny of the same brand to take to the hospital. Stroking soft things sometimes helps her to calm down, and at the very least, I hope it makes her feel a bit more secure and remind her of home. I’ve found that these essentials will keep us going until the doctors have decided what is happening and we can organize a proper supply delivery from home.

What is in your hospital emergency bag?

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