Posted by: wrmcnutt | September 23, 2011

Tips for a More Comfortable Cardiac ICU Stay

I thought I might bundle together some lessons learned from my recent hospital stay.

Tip #1:  BATHE BEFORE YOU GO.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  If you are having invasive surgery of any kind, you will be unable to take a real shower for 10 – 15 days at best.  So be sure you shower as close to check in time as possible.  It’s hard to concentrate on healing when you can smell yourself.  Request a sponge bath every 3 days or so if you can stand the discomfort.  Not of the sponge bath, but of the moving around necessary to make a sponge bath happen.  I didn’t, and regretted it.

Tip #2: Of your wallet, bring nothing but photo ID with you.  Leave all jewelry, wallet, and credit cards at home.  This stuff is nothing but distraction while you’re trying to heal.

Tip #3: Bring your own razor, shaving soap, bath soap, and hairbrush from home.  You will feel far more comfortable dealing with your own hygiene when you have your own tools.

Tip#4: Once you begin your recovery in earnest, “real people clothes” or “workout clothes” will boost your mood.  Especially, bring enough underwear for at least half of your stay.  Start wearing normal clothes as soon as it is comfortable and convenient.  Hospital gowns are for sick people, and you will feel better in your own clothes.

Tip #5: The cuisine is going to be weak.  When they ask you want you want for breakfast, ask if a fruit plate is available.  Much tastier than the other options.

Tip #6: If you have heart disease, follow the diet strictly.  If you are like me and are on a “heart healthy diet” because you are “on the heart floor,” smuggle in some of the Forbidden Seasoning:  salt. It goes a long way toward improving hospital cuisine.

Tip #7: Have a family member bribe your nurses.  Boxes of chocolate or fruit baskets are always welcome at the nurse’s station, and you want the people who control your food and pain meds to like you.

Tip #8: Back to hygiene:  I got a haircut before I went it, and it helped, but not enough.  If I have to do it again, I’m getting a buzz cut.  Not having to deal with/worry about hair would have been worth it, and it grows back.  Likewise trim your finger and toenails.  You won’t want to be bending and twisting to deal with this later on.

Tip #9: Pain meds.  One of the things pain meds do is tell ALL of your body’s systems to “relax,” “calm down,” and “don’t be in such a big hurry.”  This includes your digestive system.  The correct response to ANY offer of pain relievers is “can I get a stool softener with that, please?”  Further, take your pain meds as recommended.  I know you’re tough, and you’re worried about either forming a habit or getting plugged up, but take a look at your parents, spouse, or friends, who are watching you try to “deal with” your pain on your own.  If you take your pain meds, your loved ones will feel better.  It’s not always all about you.

Tip #10: Find a pair of slip-on, non-skid shoes.  Sooner or later you will start rehabilitation, which will involve walking around the hospital floor.  You want shoes you don’t have to bend over or tie.


Sorry, almost forgot Tip #11.  When they ask you your name, do NOT respond with “My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”  CCICU nurses have NO sense of humor.



  1. Sound advice Will, I am glad each morning when I see your FB post. Keep at it my friend.

  2. and if you wait to take your pain meds until you start hurting again, it’s going to take A While ™ for them to kick in.

    In addition, pain causes stress. Stress *impedes* healing. They *want* you to take them. As long as you don’t exceed the dosage, you’re not going to get addicted even if you take them every day for a month (disclaimer — individual body chemistries may vary!)

  3. Thank you Bill that is not only amusing it is helpful.

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