Organ Transplant (cont.)
You can keep your new organ healthy and prolong your life after an organ transplant by:
- Keeping your doctor appointments. Regular contact with your doctor means new illnesses such as infections or other possibly life-threatening problems may be detected and treated early. Also, regular follow-up with your doctor is important for monitoring rejection, a concern that never goes away. Your doctor will also check you closely for medicine side effects.
- Getting regular blood and tissue tests. This is the only way that your doctor will be able to tell if your body is rejecting the new organ, if you are having serious side effects from the medicines, or if you are getting a new illness. Remember that just because you develop rejection does not mean that you will lose the new organ. If it is caught early, you may be given additional or different medicines to prevent rejection. But in order to catch the rejection or new illness early, you must have regular blood monitoring.
- Taking your medicines exactly as prescribed. Medicines after a transplant are critical to your health. Talk with your doctor to make sure you understand what to do if you miss a dose. For some people, it helps to organize daily medicines by placing the pills in containers marked with the days of the week. Other people find it easier to set an alarm for the times they need to take medicines. When you make your own plan for taking your daily medicines, it will be easy to remember.
- Telling your doctor immediately if you have an adverse reaction to a medicine.
- Not taking any nonprescription medicines, such as cold remedies, before talking with your doctor. These medicines may interact poorly with your antirejection medicines. Also, do not take any herbal remedies without first talking about it with your doctor.
Lifestyle activities that you can do to keep healthy and prolong the life of your new organ may include:
- Getting regular exercise. It is important to keep your muscles strong or it will become harder for you to walk, dress, or do other daily activities. Staying in shape and not gaining weight will help keep your body and new organ healthy. Many diseases (such as diabetes) are associated with being overweight, and some of the medicines may put you at a higher risk for getting these diseases. Gentle exercise such as walking, exercises in the water, and yoga can help you stay in shape and can also help reduce stress. For more information, see:
- Fitness: Walking for Wellness.
- Eating regular, healthy meals. Healthy eating can control your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Eating a balanced diet will give you energy and help your body fight disease and illness. Your doctor may suggest that you eliminate or reduce salt and high-fat foods from your diet. Be sure to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D because a side effect of corticosteroids is osteoporosis, or thinning bones. For more information, see the topic Healthy Eating.
- Paying attention to your body so you can detect new illness. Knowing how you normally feel, how much energy you have, and how active you are can help you quickly identify new problems as they arise, because you will notice a change in your energy level.
- Telling your dentist that you have had an organ transplant. Special precautions may be needed in teeth cleaning or other dental work. It is always important to keep your gums and teeth clean and healthy, but it is especially true after a transplant. The antirejection medicines may increase your risk of mouth infections.
- Staying away from people who are sick. Your immune system is weakened by the antirejection drugs. It is important that you stay healthy. Before you do any traveling, talk with your doctor to see if you need to take any precautionary measures.
- Carrying a medical identification card or wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace that states that you have had an organ transplant. This information helps emergency personnel in the event you are unconscious, severely injured, or unable to answer questions.
What kind of emotional issues will I face?
Having an organ transplant may cause many emotional issues both for you and those who care about you. If your organ came from a deceased donor, you may sometimes think about that and what it meant to the donor's family. It is common to have some depression after an organ transplant, although not everyone does. If you think you may be depressed, be sure to tell your transplant coordinator, doctor, or someone who cares about you. The earlier depression is treated, the more quickly you will recover and the better you will feel.
Why should I keep in contact with the transplant center?
You will likely have a primary care doctor or specialist to provide for your regular health care after your transplant. Also, your transplant coordinator is a very helpful resource for questions you may have about medicines or what to expect in the months and years after your transplant or if new health issues arise.