Do you have a “go bag”?

The gift of safetyI think we all have websites that we’re hopelessly addicted to, the ones we’re reading by the light of our phones and tablets from bed at 4am in the morning. For me, one of those sites has to be Lifehacker. No, they don’t pay me to gush about them ( I’d be thrilled if they did) – it’s just a great site chock-full of clever ideas for making any activity you can think of faster, better and more efficient.

One of their past threads covered go bags – pre-packed bags you can grab and go for any occasion. While LH’s site mostly covers tech go bags, it’s important for any chronic illness patient to have one as well.

Why do I need a go bag?

Lupus, like life, is unpredictable. New symptoms may suddenly spring up, old problems could come back or you might just get a suspicious ache in your chest that needs checking out. In my personal experience, having a stash of meds, papers, and other items already in one easy-to-reach place meant one less thing to juggle on top of calling 911 for an emergency situation. Even if the emergency has nothing to do with you (we have to remember that healthy people have problems too), those items might come in handy if you wind up stranded outside the house for longer than you expected. Putting together a go bag can take anywhere from a day to a weekend – a small investment of time and money for a kit that can make hospital stays and other emergencies a little easier to muddle through.

Getting started

My main go bag is for hospital stays – I usually average 1-2 multiple night hospital stays per year, though 2013 broke the record with a total of 5 stays and over 13 nights in a hospital. In what area of your life would a bag be helpful? If you’re also a caretaker for someone else, you might need a go bag to cover your own needs while you’re away from home helping your charge. Maybe a “just in case” bag with some extra medications and emergency contact numbers would help you sleep better at night. For younger patients, try making a go bag suited for parties or sleepovers with items to help you in case your symptoms flare up. Thinking about this can help you decide what kind of bags will suit your needs best.

What should I put in my bag?

Some basics that everyone should have in case of emergencies include:

  • Identification
  • Current list of medications, including dosages and the contact info of the doctors who prescribed them
  • List of any allergies
  • Health care proxy, living will or any other relevant advance directives

Other than the important items above you can put anything in your bag. Other good items to think about include: a pill box with extra medications (I usually aim for 1-3 days worth of medication), entertainment items, a scarf to keep warm or a freezable icepack for hot areas, extra chargers and cords for phones/tablets/computers/etc., non-perishable snacks, and/or cash.

In my hospital go bag (which is technically a wheeled carry-on luggage), I usually have spare clothing, lots of lotion (hospital air always dries my skin), antibacterial hand lotion, dry shampoo, combs, a hairnet, slippers or non-skid socks, extra headphones, lots of tea bags, lemon juice packets, honey packets (I’ve never been to a hospital that had a good tea selection), notebooks and colored pens, my journal and a shawl. Since my bag has wheels and is meant to work more like luggage, I can pack as much as I think I need – if mobility if you’re main concern, you’ll want to be more careful with what you carry.

Want to learn more?

I’ve pasted a few choice links from Lifehacker’s site to guide you in creating your own go bag. Be sure to browse their galleries for even more ideas.

LH – Put together your go bag in a weekend
LH – Make a modular go bag
LH – Bag database helps you find your perfect bag
More LH go bag articles

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