Opinion: 10 Things I wish I knew before my transplant

Dr. Sri Ramulu, MD, DM Nephrologist, Velammal Medical College and Hospital, Madurai

Published: Dec 21, 2022 04:29:45 PM IST
Updated: Dec 26, 2022 09:05:10 PM IST

Opinion: 10 Things I wish I knew before my transplantA kidney transplant is a surgery to place a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor into a person whose kidneys no longer function properly. Their main function is to filter and remove waste, minerals, and fluid from the blood by producing urine.

When kidneys lose this filtering ability, harmful levels of fluid and waste accumulate in the body, which can raise blood pressure and result in kidney failure (end-stage renal disease). End-stage renal disease occurs when the kidneys have lost about 90% of their ability to function normally. End-stage renal disease occurs when the kidneys have lost about 90% of their ability to function normally.

When your kidneys fail, treatment is needed to replace the work your own kidneys can no longer do. There are two types of treatment for kidney failure: dialysis or transplant. For many people whose kidneys have failed, a kidney transplant can offer more freedom and a better quality of life than dialysis.  When you get a kidney transplant, a healthy kidney is placed inside your body to do the work your own kidneys can no longer do. The healthy kidney can come from someone has died and chosen to donate, called a deceased donor, or from someone who has two healthy kidneys and chooses to donate one, called a living donor.  A successful kidney transplant may allow you to live longer and to live the kind of life you were living before you got kidney disease.

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My Transplant are Mentioned Below:

1.     You need a team of doctors on your side. Most kidney transplant recipients have a nephrologist who monitors their kidney health. My nephrologist likes to see me every three or four months, even after 10 years.  But you should also have other specialists on your healthcare team, including a dermatologist, a dentist, and a general practitioner.

2.     You may have to pre-medicate before visiting the dentist. Speaking of dentists, because I have a transplant and take immunosuppressant (anti-rejection) medications, I am at an increased risk for developing infections, including those in my mouth. Dental cleaning is generally recommended every six months for transplant recipients. 

3.    Don’t be a silent sufferer!  I’ve had several health problems I thought would just go away but they didn’t, including diarrhea and gout. After my first transplant, I endured a long period of diarrhea, not knowing that it could be handled by changing my medications. I also went through another period of terrible foot pain not realizing it was connected to my kidney problems. Who thinks feet have anything to do with kidneys?! I finally mentioned it to my nephrologist who diagnosed it as gout and then gave me a prescription which eliminated the pain.

4.    “Skinny fingers” is a good sign. I figured this one out myself. When my fingers are puffy, it means my kidneys are having a hard time eliminating fluids from my system, so I should slow down on my water and salt consumption.

5.    Try minimizing exposure to germs, but don’t get carried away. Every transplant recipient is at an increased risk for developing infections after transplantation because of immunosuppressant medications, so avoiding exposure to germs makes some sense.  But don’t get carried away.  You did not have the transplant to live your life in a protective bubble!  Good hand washing with antibacterial soap or using some hand sanitizer may be a good practice.

6.    Your hospital stay will be short and you can get back to work fairly quickly. Most living kidney donors stay in the hospital for zero to one day. Depending on what you do for work, you can return to work as soon as two weeks or as late as eight weeks after your surgery. You also shouldn't lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for the first six weeks after your surgery.

7.    Prescriptions can be changed. If you ask 10 transplant recipients what medications they are taking, you are likely to get 10 different answers!  There is no one perfect set of medications for everyone. If you suspect a medication is causing you problems – ask your doctor if you can change it.

8.    Keep stress low. Keeping stress low is important for everyone, but especially so for transplant recipients.  I’m convinced that stress has a bad effect on the body’s immune system, which can have serious consequences for us transplant recipients. Among my stress lowering strategies: reducing the amount of stuff in my life (because stuff requires maintenance); avoiding conflict; focusing on the positive; and finding a faith community.

9.    You are not alone. By talking with other transplant recipients I’ve discovered that almost everything I’ve been through someone else has experienced. I’ve learned a lot, and felt much relief, in talking about my transplant with others.

and finally…

10.    Transplantation is a gift!  Donor organs are a precious gift, not to be squandered, so I try to live a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating right and exercising gently but often.

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