Benefits and Challenges After an Organ Transplant
Your Post-Transplant Routine
Expect to have an ongoing relationship with your organ transplant team. Depending on the type of transplant and your health status, you will be given a schedule of follow-up exams.
For example, if you had a heart transplant, you might meet with your health care providers twice a week for two months. Blood work is needed to follow your progress. Perhaps you'll go to a support group. And always, you have to be on guard against infection.
For the rest of their lives, organ transplant patients have to watch out for infection, Kasper says. That means no sushi and no salad bars. It means avoiding contact with sick people. You also can't be around people recently vaccinated with live vaccines, because that person is shedding the live virus.
It's crucial to promptly report side effects with post-transplant medications, says Spicer. And it's important to keep underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control. If you lost a kidney because of diabetes, for example, and you don't keep your sugar under control, you are going to hurt your kidney again. The surgery has not left you invulnerable.
Organ transplant surgery is a trade-off, Kasper says. But if you realize the surgery is done to give you a better quality of life, it can make it easier to follow all the new health measures you are now expected to heed, such as taking your immunosuppressant medications on schedule.
Be sure to cultivate a strong support system, especially for right after the surgery, says Penelope Loughhead, LMSW, an organ transplant social worker at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. She suggests having someone learn about your medications with you, so they can be a safety net for you when you get home.