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Getting Ready for an Organ Transplant

Once you learn you are a candidate for an organ transplant, you may think you can sit back, relax a little, and wait for that phone call telling you it's time for surgery.

Nothing could be further from the truth, say transplant experts.

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The time before the transplant is the best time to devote yourself to preparing mentally, physically, and financially. This article can get you started.

Getting Into the Organ Transplant Mindset

An organ transplant's psychological impact must be addressed. While your transplant team can tell you what to expect, they probably haven't experienced it firsthand. It helps your health care team to know what you're going through, says Penelope Loughhead, LMSW, a transplant social worker at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

Along with sharing your thoughts and needs with your team, Loughhead aIso thinks it's beneficial to talk to someone who has gotten an organ like the one you are waiting for. When you're ready to connect with someone this way, ask your transplant team's social worker to help you.

While the waiting time for your organ transplant might seem difficult, you can use this time to come to grips with what's going on, says Gigi Spicer, RN, director of the Virginia Transplant Center at Henrico Doctors' Hospital in Richmond, Va. Typically, she finds, it takes candidates a few months to get used to the idea of the organ transplant and how it will change their life.

Though everyone waiting for a transplant needs time to cope with the fact that his or her health isn't what it was, Spicer advises candidates to adopt an optimistic attitude. Something like: "I am not the disease. I am still who I was. I just happen to have this problem, but my problem can be worked with and my life can be richer."

Looking at Your Lifestyle Before an Organ Transplant

Often, organ transplant candidates need to make some substantial lifestyle changes, such as losing a moderate or large amount of weight or stopping smoking, says Spicer.

That can be hard for some, Spicer says. Candidates are often willing participants in the high-tech aspects of an organ transplant but may drag their feet on lifestyle changes or deny that changes are even necessary.

That's when you need to cultivate a little perspective, recommends Spicer, and decide on just what the transplant is worth to you.

Handling the Financing of an Organ Transplant

Whatever the organ, transplants are expensive. For instance, the billed costs for a heart transplant in 2011 (including organ procurement, immunosuppressant drugs, and hospital admissions) was $997,700, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit national organization that administers the country's Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. In the same year, billed costs for a kidney transplant were $262,900, while a combined heart-lung transplant cost just over $1.1 million.

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