Based on Emma’s experience with her spinal fusion surgery and the long recovery, I am sharing the best gift ideas for a teen in the hospital. We were asked dozens of times what she would like. But it took going through the surgery to know the best gifts for this situation.
In the Hospital, Give Gifts to Caregivers
Of course, the week in the hospital is mostly a blur. For a major surgery like spinal fusion, the patient doesn’t need nearly as much attention as the caregivers do.
The biggest blessings we received were food. Dear friends drove to the hospital with hampers full of tortilla wraps, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, ground coffee, and half & half. Others brought hot food such as fried chicken or pizza.
Another friend let me borrow a huge quilt that was in her van. Although the hospital let us use cotton blankets, it felt so homey to have a “real” blanket.
INSIDER TIP: It may come as a surprise, but people in the hospital may not want visitors. The hospital is not a comfortable place for socializing. The patient is in terrible pain and not at her best. Entertaining guests is an added stressor for an already stressed patient and family. Express your love and concern, but don’t insist on visiting the patient. Deliver food to the lobby areas and make your stay brief so that parents can get back to the recovering child.
Always call before appearing at the hospital room’s door. And be willing to stand in the hallway to chat if the patient is not up to a visitor. To be honest, the patient may not even remember you came. But the family will. So minister to them instead.
During Recovery at Home, Take Gifts to the Patient
The patient is hardly able to read a card or enjoy any kind of gift in the hospital, so save those things for the recovery at home. We found that the initial outpouring of concern dropped off quickly once we had been home for about a week. Ironically that time frame was when we could have used more visits to keep our spirits up and ward off the cabin fever that was setting in.
So if you really want to bless a family after surgery, drop off a gift for the patient when she has been home for two weeks. She will be alert enough to both appreciate and use it.
These are the gifts that Emma and I appreciated the most both in and out of the hospital.
1. juice boxes with straws for taking pills
Small sizes such as 4 to 6 ounces are perfect for taking medications without having a lot of waste. Try to find a variety of flavors. Apple juice and Sprite get boring. One friend brought us Yahoo chocolate drink boxes. Those were a huge hit because they were so unique.
This is the absolute best gift I can recommend. We joked about using a baby monitor with Emma, and basically the walkie talkies were the same idea but in grown up teen form.
When we first came home, she was very limited in what she could do for herself but I certainly didn’t want to sit by her bed or by the couch all night and day long. She also needed the reassurance that we would come instantly if she needed help. These walkie talkies were a perfect solution. (That link is the exact set that we have, bought from Amazon.) At times when she was too weak to even talk, she used the alarm button to alert us to come help.
And as recovery comes, walkie talkies are plain fun to play with.
3. pillows or stuffed animals for holding or propping
Getting comfortable is a constant struggle. Aim for items with cushy textures that are a distraction from pain. This plush body pillow is an example of the kind of thing that Emma appreciated.
4. colored bendy straws
As the patient starts drinking more liquids, fun straws are a small diversion. Although they may seem juvenile, this set of disposable cups with lids and straws would have been perfect for all those pills Emma had to take.
5. super soft and pretty blanket
Emma loved a personalized blanked that some church friends gave her. The texture, colors, and sentiment seemed to bring her great comfort.
6. iTunes gift cards
Load up the iPod with music!
7. fun slippers
A dear friend gave Emma some super soft tiger slippers in the hospital. These were perfect for physical therapy sessions and getting about the room. Again, pay attention to colors and textures. Any positive physical sensation is a distraction from the pain of recovery.
8. hard candies
Emma complained of a bad taste in her mouth for weeks after her spinal fusion. Butterscotch discs and life saver candies were a big relief.
9. over-sized cards or posters that can be hung on the walls
We used surgical tape (of course) to hang up the homemade posters and cards that people brought. During physical therapy, those were something to focus on instead of the pain.
Other Gifts Perfect for Later in Recovery
1. gift cards to stores or restaurants
These make great motivators to get out of the house and brave the painful bumps of the car.
2. craft kits
Choose simple kits that provide all supplies needed. These are great for keeping busy while watching television or listening to audio books. Emma is still enjoying the Knot-a-Quilt that a dear family gave her.
I am happy to say that I’m bringing this homebound homeschool series to a close. The irony of it is that there isn’t a whole lot of homeschool in these posts. What I’ve discovered is that when you are homebound after a surgery, you need to focus on healing and not on academics. Once the body is whole and the mind is clear of pain medications, then you can expend mental energy to learn.
Pushing the learning before that point is counterproductive. It’s just like potty training or teaching a child to read. It will happen when the child is ready and not a day before.