- When will I get to go home after my transplant?
- What medications will I need to take?
- How many appointments can I expect after my transplant?
- Should I be worried about organ rejection?
- When can I start exercising?
- When can I go back to work/school?
- What kinds of food should I be eating?
- How will this impact my loved ones?
- How can I communicate with my donor family?
- How can I get involved, volunteer, and spread the word about organ transplantation?
There is no set time for when people go home after an organ transplant. Your transplant team will evaluate a number of factors to determine when you can go home after your transplant including:
- The type of organ you received (kidney, liver, lung, etc.) as recovery for each organ is different
- Your overall health and ability to take care of yourself before your transplant
- Your lab results and overall health status
- Other chronic health problems
- Availability of caregivers and support at home
After your organ transplant surgery, your transplant team will prescribe you a number of different immunosuppressants depending on your type of organ transplant. Immunosuppressants are anti-rejection medications that “hide” your new transplanted organ from your body’s immune system to protect it from being attacked and destroyed. Take these and other medications as your doctor prescribes. Be sure to talk to your transplant team before making any changes. You will take immunosuppressants for the lifetime of your transplanted organ. Learn more about post-transplant medications.
In the first few months after a transplant, you will visit your transplant team frequently to be sure that your new organ is functioning well and to help you develop good health habits. The number of appointments you have post-transplant surgery could vary depending on your personal health history as well as by transplant hospital. In order to get a sense of the amount of post-surgery appointments to plan for, below is a general outline. You will want to communicate with your transplant team on your post care plan.
- Month 1 after surgery – Two appointments a week, one for just lab work and one for lab work as well as a consult with your physician.
- Month 2 after surgery – You will visit your doctor once a week for a consultation as well as lab work.
- Months 3 & 4 after surgery – You will visit your transplant hospital every two weeks for lab work and once a month for a visit with your doctor.
- Month 6 after surgery – You will visit your transplant hospital once a month for lab work and every 3-6 months for a visit with your doctor.
- Year 1+ after surgery – You will visit your transplant hospital every 3-4 months for lab work and once a year for a visit with your doctor.
It is common to have at least one episode of organ rejection following transplant surgery. Organ rejection is when your body attacks the newly transplanted organ. Rejection is a frightening word, but it doesn’t always mean you are losing your transplanted organ. Your transplant team knows how to manage rejection with medications. Rejection is another reason it is crucial to take your post-transplant medications as instructed. After treatment, most people live relatively normal lives with their transplanted organ.
After an organ transplant, people can respond differently. The amount and time of activity you can handle after your transplant depends on your age and personal health. The goal is to get moving. For one person, “moving” may mean sitting up in a chair. For another, it might mean walking several times a day.
If moving is challenging, your transplant team may prescribe physical rehabilitation to get you started in the safest manner possible. Rehabilitation may be done at home or at an outpatient facility. Don’t be alarmed if you need rehabilitation support. Once you have found a “new normal? Keep exercising so that you can stay as fit as possible.
Many people return to their jobs, school, or even start new careers weeks after their transplant surgery. Ask your transplant team on the exact number of weeks you can expect to return to work or school after your transplant.
After your transplant surgery, you may need to change your diet. You may need to drink more water. You’ll also need to get lab tests done more frequently. After your organ transplant surgery, you may be referred to a nutritionist to help you take the best care of your body and new organ. Your transplant team as well as your nutritionist will be the best resource for any new dietary restrictions you should follow.
While you were will, family members and friends may have managed many things for you or helped you with your care. After your transplant, you may be able to handle more of these issues on your own. After you recover from surgery and being to feel better, your loved ones will have to adapt their thoughts and behaviors to a new you. Learn more about caring for transplant patients.
Before your transplant, sexual activity may not have been possible. Now that you feel better, you may to ready to reconsider. Be sure to talk to your transplant team before resuming sexual activity.
The key to maintaining good relationships is to have open and honest communication.
When you are ready, you may want to express your experience, feelings, or appreciation to your donor family. If you received your organ from an unknown deceased donor, you can write a letter to the family. Your transplant team can help get your letter or other communication to a living donor or donor family. Learn more about how to contact your donor family.
Your organ transplant is truly the gift of life. You may feel like you can never truly repay your donor or donor family. However, you can honor your donor by taking the best care of your new organ as instructed by your transplant care team. You can also pay if forward by promoting organ and tissue donation in your community so others may receive the same wonderful gift. Get involved by volunteering with or supporting UNOS and our mission to advance organ availability and transplantation.