Recovering After a Hospital Stay

When am I going to feel normal again? This is a question I hear a lot from fellow asthmatics. I have to admit, I’ve even said it myself on occasion. I’m in a support group on Facebook for people with severe asthma and we have a saying: 1 day in the hospital means 2 days at home recovering. So if you are like me, and typically spend 3 to 5 days in the hospital with an infection or exacerbation, you can count on about a week to a week-and-a-half before you start to feel like your old self.

I know when I return home after an asthma hospital stay I want three things: 1) a bath, 2) food – especially sweets thanks to the high doses of steroids, and 3) my bed. So the first couple of days at home will be pretty much a blur as you recover from the lack of sleep and side-effects of the steroids. I often tell friends and family to not call/text for the first couple of days because nothing I say will make sense, and I won’t remember saying it!

Coming out of the fog

By day 3 I seem to start coming out of the fog and now “real life” begins again. There are dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, the trash needs to be taken out, and what the heck is that smell coming from the fridge? There seem to be a million things to do, and yet you have absolutely no energy to do any of it and even if you do, you don’t know where to even start. Here’s where the healing REALLY starts to happen.

Finding help with the children

First of all, if you have children or pets to care for, my suggestion would be to get some help. If you are lucky enough to have family close by, have them come and help with the kiddos so you can get the rest that you need. An even better suggestion would be for the kiddos to go stay with relatives for a couple of days.

Relatives

If you present it correctly to them, you can even make it sound like a fun thing – “You get to go have a sleepover at Grandma’s house for a couple of days. I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun making cookies, yard, and helping her in with her garden”. With the right presentation, you can make it sound like a special activity rather than “Mom doesn’t want me around anymore”.

If you don’t have anyone that the children can go and stay with, see if you can find a relative or friend; perhaps even a church member, who would be willing to come over and watch the kids while you get some much-needed rest. Afternoons seem to be a time when kids start getting restless and it’ll be just about the time you are ready to wind down for a nap.

Meals on wheels

Another helpful idea is to contact a local church, or community organization and ask for meals to be brought in for a couple of days. “Meals on wheels” is another option as the last thing you are going to want to do is worry about “what’s for dinner” and while fast food may sound like a good idea at first, it’ll get old really quick.

Planning out the day

One of the oxymorons of hospital recovery is the energy you have due to the high doses of steroids, and yet, you find that you get tired very easily and have difficulty focusing for more than a few minutes at a time. This becomes the time when planning your day is really important. I start by making a list (usually the night before), of the things I have to get done the next day. This usually includes items like follow-up doctor appointments, phone calls that need to be made, and prescriptions that I need to pick up at the pharmacy.

Then, I schedule in 1-2 EASY housekeeping items – rinse dishes that can go in the dishwasher, get out my rolling cart and take the trash out to the dumpster, sort the mail, things that can be done in 10-15 minutes max.

Time for rest

The remaining part of the day is for rest and recouping. Since I don’t tend to have much of an attention span while on high doses of steroids, I usually pick several items that I can do and then rotate as my attention allows. These may include working on a cross-stitch sampler, coloring, doing a crossword puzzle, checking in with friends on Facebook, and perhaps playing a game or two, and watching TV. I’m not one who can do it, but I know people who binge-watch a whole series of a program on Netflix or Hulu as well. Personally, I need variety, I can’t watch an entire series all at once like that.

My to-do list after a hospital stay

Listed below is a sample of what my to-do plan looked like after a recent overnight stay in the hospital:

  1. Follow-up with a pulmonologist
  2. Follow-up with Primary Care
  3. Call Tammy (Nurse case manager and update her)
  4. Schedule delivery of specialty medication
  5. Rinse dishes and put in the dishwasher
  6. Take out the trash
  7. Check Slack for any messages/updates
  8. Spend the remainder of the day napping and doing various hobbies as focus and energy levels will allow

We have a saying in our asthma Facebook group “turtle” – which is also our mascot. Turtling means a couple of different things – moving slowly. The tendency for me when I get home from the hospital is to hurry up and catch up on everything that has been sitting for x number of days. I have to remember the most important thing is to turtle – rest, move slowly, and allow my body to heal. It also means taking care of myself. The dishes are not going anywhere, nor is the laundry. If I don’t get it done today, there is always tomorrow or the next day.

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