Life after a Kidney Transplant
The typical recipient of a donated kidney is hooked up to a dialysis machine a few times a week and may not feel too lively overall. After some time, the patient isn't not tethered to dialysis on a regular basis. So why don't people feel immediately euphoric?
"Your body has to adjust to the new organ, and to all the medications that you are getting," says Blanca Sckell, MD an internist at Saint Vincent's Hospital in New York City and manager of the primary care program. "If you have no complications, it takes about a month to recover from the surgery and about a year to feel good. As your body adjusts to the kidney, the doctors will take away more medications."
The first few weeks after surgery are an intensive round of tests and blood work, according to the National Kidney Foundation. At first, you will probably have your blood drawn and visit the transplant clinic a few times a week. Doctors will review your progress and adjust your medications, and any problems will be addressed. Though it can seem at first like you're just constantly shuttling back and forth to the doctor, you will have to visit the clinic less and less during the first year. When you've had the new kidney for about a year, chances are that you will have a clinic visit only every four to six months, says the National Kidney Foundation. Then you'll be sent back to your nephrologist for long term care.
The medications that you will be taking are being given to you so you won't reject your new kidney, explains Sckell, and they do have side effects. Some people could even have an allergic reaction to the medications, ranging from a rash to nausea.
After a kidney transplant, you will have an increased sense of well being and more energy, says the National Kidney Foundation. You should be able to return to work. Besides the obvious financial benefit of getting a salary, a return to work offers a sense of self worth and can help you to have a more positive attitude.
If you've been wanting to have a baby, getting pregnant may be possible after a transplant. While transplanted women have a slightly increased chance of losing the baby before term or having a smaller baby, there is not an increased risk of birth defects. Healthy babies have been born to women with kidney transplants, and transplanted men also can father children, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Find an obstetrician who has had experience with transplanted mothers. He or she can be in close contact with your transplant doctors to optimize your chances for a normal pregnancy and delivery.
After a kidney transplant, expect to feel a little under the weather for up to a year, but rest assured that you will feel better, Sckell says.
"A transplant is not an easy thing to go through," she says. "It is a process, but it has saved your life. You have a kidney now, and you're not hooked up to a machine. It's a tough process but it's all worthwhile."
How to Protect Your Health
● Stay in good blood sugar control, advises Sckell. Take steps to ensure that your blood pressure stays in the normal range, and pay attention to your cholesterol level as well.
● Consume a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, and low in cholesterol and sugar. It is important to abstain from alcohol and to build exercise into your daily routine, Sckell says.
● Weight gain can sometimes be a problem after a transplant, says the National Kidney Foundation, so you'll want to strictly monitor calorie intake.
● Resume your normal activities gradually. Don't start any exercise program without checking with your doctor.
● Don't travel to under-developed countries since they may not have good medical facilities or health care professionals who are well versed in kidney transplant issues. Also, food and water in these countries can be sub-par and can increase your risk of getting a serious illness.
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