Life After A Kidney Transplant

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What to Know After Your Kidney Transplant

Receiving a kidney transplant is a life-changing event. There are many things to consider to make sure you take care of yourself and your new kidney during recovery. Managing your expectations for healing and taking care of your new kidney are critical. Our transplant team wants you to be successful and has outlined information below that will help in your recovery.

Kidney rejection

Having a new kidney is a major change for your body. Though most kidney transplants are successful, there are some cases in which they are not. Your immune system, which protects your body from germs and harmful cells, recognizes your new kidney as a foreign tissue and might try to reject it. To help prevent your new kidney from being rejected, your doctor will give you immunosuppressants, also referred to as anti-rejection drugs. These medicines decrease your immune response so your body is less likely to reject your new kidney.

There are two types of kidney rejections:

  1. Acute rejection usually occurs within the first three to six months after transplantation. Many patients have some symptoms of acute rejection; however, less than one in 20 transplant patients have acute rejection that leads to complete failure of the new kidney.
  2. Chronic rejection occurs slowly over time after your transplantation as your body continues to fight your new kidney.

If you notice any of the symptoms below that might suggest rejection, please contact our office right away.

  • Ankle swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling as if you might have the flu, including symptoms such as body aches, headache and more
  • Fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Pain or tenderness near your surgery site
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Urinating less than usual
  • Very high blood pressure

If your doctor tells you your body might be rejecting your kidney transplant, it does not mean your new kidney is failing. Oftentimes, changing the dosage of your medication will correct this issue. This is why it’s so important to take your immunosuppression medication as prescribed.

Avoiding infections

As mentioned, after you receive a kidney transplant, your immune system is weakened by medications. This puts you at a heightened risk of infection, so you must be diligent about avoiding infection. Attend your follow-up appointments and stay up to date on your vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.

The first few weeks after surgery is when you are at the most risk for infection. Please follow the precautions below:

  • Avoid having people in your home who are sick.
  • Don’t visit places with large crowds such as malls, restaurants, or movies.
  • Ask the people around you to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze.
  • Throw away tissues and empty trash cans often.
  • Wash your bedding and don’t share personal items such as towels, washcloths, toothbrushes, etc.
  • Do not share food or drinks with others.
  • Clean any cuts or scrapes.

Mental health

Receiving a transplant is an exciting experience, but it can also cause anxiety or other emotions. Many patients feel emotional before or after their procedure, and that is normal. If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression or guilt, oftentimes those feelings are normal. There are multiple reasons you might be feeling this way:

  • You’ve started new medications that might cause mood changes.
  • You’re feeling anxious or stressed about beginning a new lifestyle.
  • You have guilt regarding your kidney donor.
  • You’re leaving behind your dialysis friends, if you were receiving that treatment prior to transplantation.
  • You are helping your family members cope.

Find friends and family members to support you as you embark on your new journey. Make sure you talk with your transplant team about how you’re feeling.

Depression

The symptoms of depression might be hard to notice. Each person is affected differently by depression so symptoms vary among people. Sometimes symptoms might be confused with another medical problem or you just might feel “off.”

The two most common symptoms of depression are:

  1. Feeling sad or hopeless nearly every day for at least two weeks.
  2. Losing interest in or not getting pleasure from most daily activities that you used to enjoy and feeling this way nearly every day for at least two weeks.

A serious symptom of depression is thinking about death or suicide. If you or someone you care about talks about this or about feeling hopeless, get help right away. Contact our team if you think you might be suffering from depression, and we can refer you to a specialist.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is very important to your kidney health. After a kidney transplant, it’s very important as it helps reduce the risk of infection and kidney stones and removes waste from your blood.

Below are some ways to make sure you are drinking enough water during the day.

  • Drink a glass of water before you have your morning coffee or tea.
  • Keep a water bottle by your side during the day. Try to take several drinks each hour.
  • When you see a water fountain, use that as a reminder it’s time for you to drink.
  • Try adding a sugarless flavor packet or lemon slice to your water if you’re tired of drinking plain water. Sparkling water is also a good choice.

Insurance coverage

If your insurance changes, please remember to notify our office. The transplant team can be reached at 573-882-8763.

Prescription costs

After you receive a kidney transplant, you will be dependent on certain medications for life. If you’re having difficulty affording your medications after transplantation, our staff may be able to help lower your costs. Please contact Katlyn Benskin, the patient medication liaison, at 573-882-3441.