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How to Survive a Hospital Stay

It seems fitting that we write about Hospital Stays early in our blog journey as hospitals played a significant role in the creation of Sunflower and Ivy. In a way it was hospitals that inspired our main product- nurture boxes. Besides buying someone a thoughtful gift or many via a gift box, there are a few additional things you can do to make those days you or someone else is in hospital slightly more bearable.

To be blunt hospital’s aren’t nice places, sure good things can happen there; life saving treatments and our favourite; the birth of babies. There are some amazing nurses and doctors; people who dedicate their whole lives to caring for people and fostering better health outcomes. But it is hard to disguise the many discomforts. Hospitals smell like disinfectant, anxiety and pain. You wake and sleep in unfamiliar surrounds, amongst bleeping machinery, snoring strangers and medication rounds. Daily conversation includes questions about your bowel movements and odd parts of your body are prodded, poked, needled and bandaged. Fresh air is hard to come by and entertainment comes via conversation through the curtains of neighboring cubicles. The preparation of a toilet trip can engulf a whole hour as you plan the right time to press the call bell, sweat over whether you will get stage fright and hypothesise how to hold a rail, pull up your nightie, pull down your underwear all while avoiding knocking your IV cannula or fainting on the floor. Sometimes dignity feels like it gets left at the door. Deciphering medical language is a skill in itself and while you may be grateful for smiling nurses, improvements every day and modern medicine, you just desperately want to hear the word “discharge” so you can be home with the whole affair firmly cemented in history.

Positivity and Humour

Hospital Stay Okay so we haven’t painted a joyful picture of hospital and this is going to be a big ask, but one of the things that can help is positivity. Alright, I get it, you just rolled your eyes. Whatever has you in hospital is likely making you feel like your cats hairball and I am asking you to be positive. But trust me from experience; hysteria is useful to no one unless it’s of the giggling kind. The best way to ensure maximum positivity during your stay is to become an expert censor. While everyone’s different, doomsday, crime and thriller movies and books will most likely fail at making you feel better. Opt for reading and entertainment that is light-hearted and positive. This may be your perfect opportunity to binge on trashy magazines and learn all the names of Angelina Jolie’s children. I also recommend you avoid watching the news and engaging in too much social media trawling. For long hospital stays bringing you favourite book or movies on your ipad is highly recommended. There’s nothing like a little Pride and Prejudice or Alice in Wonderland to comfort a wary mind.

For a direct humour fix merely rope a visitor into unleashing Snap Chat filters with you, getting the closest child to recite their favourite jokes or if you have access to the internet, a quick Google search never goes astray. I hear cats own the internet with numerous videos and memes and if you’re a cat lover it could be a good place to start. Happy news and good news Google searches are also likely to uncover some positive material. You can also read my other blog post- Happiness- a Quick Five

However before you go buying 10 books on your reading list in anticipation for your upcoming surgery, hospital is not a holiday and as the bearer of bad news, you may struggle to get through one book with the naps, toileting ordeals (see above) and general queasiness of pain medication. Bring one book and leave the rest at home.

Distractions and leisure

It’s ironic isn’t it- all that spare time you have in hospitals with no work, chores, traffic jams or errands? All the things you could be doing, but the reality is you’re not in your finest form. Whether you have a looming hospital stay ahead or you’ve been admitted unexpectedly we recommend throwing all expectations of your day out the window. Recovery requires energy so while your body is mending itself, don’t expect to have energy for anything else. That said there may be times when you feel alert enough and have enough stamina to do a little something. Opt for easy leisure activities, magazines and travel brochures rather than novels, colouring-in rather than empty sketchpads, short comedy episodes instead of movies. Audio books and music may be good to have at hand too.


Visiting times are akin to the gold rush and they are the currency to surviving long nights and rest times. Choose wisely who you have visiting while you’re in hospital. While they may be dear to you, people who are prone to loudly vocalising their anxieties or negativity are probably not people you need around when you’re in a vulnerable state.  Likewise friends who may have best intentions but are prone to antics and offending others may be best suited to staying at home. No one needs disgruntled neighbours and annoyed nurses to add to their problems. If you’re unfortunate enough to have a long stay in hospital, assign a spouse, parent, sibling or best friend to recruit more visitors. Sometimes people just don’t know how to deal with illness and hospitals. Some people may be uncertain if they should visit and a nudge can be all they need!


Often with visitors mean gifts. Visiting someone in hospital can be just as emotionally turbulent as being in one yourself, bringing gifts is common way to mediate some of the emotion, quell some of the hopelessness and communicate to your loved one that you care. If you’re a modest, no fuss person a hospital stay is the time to temporarily discard this character trait and embrace gift giving. We would even go so far as to encourage you to ask for what you need. This can be difficult but you’ll probably find that your visitors are usually more than willing to source things to keep you occupied and comfortable. If you’re shy, write a list and give it to the person your closest to (not the nurses, last time I checked they were busy running a hospital). Included in our nurture boxes is a voucher booklet to help you ask for things you might need. It could be anything from a food your craving, some magazines or your favourite track pants from home. Remember not all gifts have to be expensive, often it is the little creature comforts we crave most and a pair of fluffy socks never go astray.


Ah food, for some it is the epitome of life and if you’re a master chef type you may struggle with hospital food. Anything produced en-masse in a kitchen can be a little lacklustre to say the least. My personal opinion is that breakfast is your best bet; yogurt and orange juice are by generally safe consumables. However, In all honesty  there is usually something at each meal you can eat. After all it is usually not the hospitals intention to starve you. Depending on your hospital stay your appetite may have packed up and gone on holiday anyway. But for those with a ravenous appetite and a palette for the finer things, requesting visitors to bring in some food and snacks may be the best gift you ever got. At risk of sounding like your mum, I am going to recommend that food is of the healthy variety. Remember that reason you’re in hospital? to recover? Unfortunately MacDonald’s, pick n’ mix lolly bags and soft drinks come last on the list of recovery aids. Fresh fruit, fresh juices, salads, healthy meals and a good old muffin and cup of tea will help keep your body fuelled for its recovery. Just check you’re not on any diet restrictions and if you’re prone to queasiness start slow, projectile vomiting your whole stash of food is not a pleasant experience.

What to Bring

This tip is for those longer hospital stays, if you’re in overnight; you’ll barely get time to notice the curtain colour between the tests and naps before your back in the comfort of your own home. For longer stays a fresh bunch of flowers every few days is my number one go to. They bring life, colour and beauty into a pretty stark and sometimes scary place. So if your reading this and your about to visit someone in hospital or rehab; Brighter is generally better, you’re not styling the next vogue magazine so leave the sleek, white arrangements for another time. It’s best not to count on hospitals having vases so buy your flowers in a box or glass jar. Photos and mementos can also bring a bit of life into your hospital room. A framed photo of family, a pet or your child’s latest drawing as well as a teddy, seashell or small other memento can bring comfort and connection to the outside world.  Natural products such as essential oils sprays and natural shower gels can add some luxury and comfort but make sure you ask before using them, especially if you share a room and avoid artificial chemicals. Oh and before we get carried away with the extra’s don’t forget the essentials; a good stock of clean underwear, pyjama’s and your toothbrush.

So that’s our tips for surviving a hospital stay; give a little thought to your packing and pastimes, adopt a gift loving relationship with your visitors, become an expert censor and visitor selector, drop the expectations and eat, sleep, repeat and recover.

If you have any of your own hospital survival tips I would love for you to comment below.

Hospital Room
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