You’ll probably stay in the hospital for 7–14 days after surgery. Immediately after surgery, you’ll be taken to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU). After a day or so there, you’ll go to the Inpatient Transplant Unit where you’ll take medicines to prevent infections and rejection of your new organ. Your doctor will check for bleeding and other problems.
You’ll also be prepared for your return home. You’ll be given a schedule for follow-up visits and routine blood draws, and a 24-hour phone number for emergencies or other problems. You’ll learn how to deal with the medicines you’ll be taking and their side effects, recognize rejection symptoms, plan proper diets and generally take responsibility for your recovery at home. The transplant coordinator, social worker, and psychiatrist are all available when needed. The social worker will help arrange your discharge needs, such as rehabilitation or long-term placement, chemical dependency counseling, and transportation home. You’ll also be offered a referral to a community health nurse who can help you at home.
Long Term Management
After you leave the hospital, you’ll return on a regular schedule for follow-up visits. A medical team will follow your progress throughout your life. You’ll have regular blood tests to make sure that your new organ is not being damaged by rejection, infections, or other problems. Over time, both the frequency of lab tests and the doses of medicine are reduced.
You’ll need to eat a healthy diet and exercise and use medicines, including ones you can buy without a prescription, only if your doctor says they’re safe for you.
You can drink more fluids and eat many of the fruits and vegetables you were previously told to avoid. You may even need to gain a little weight, but be careful not to gain too much weight too quickly and avoid salty foods that can lead to high blood pressure. It’s important to work with our dietitian to make sure you’re following a healthy eating plan and to follow your doctor’s advice to take care of your new kidney.
Returning to Normal Activities
After a successful organ transplant, most people can go back to their normal daily activities. Getting your strength back will take some time, though, depending on how sick you were before the transplant. You’ll need to check with your transplant team on how long your recovery period should be. Social workers and support groups will help you adjust to life with a new organ.
Eventually, though, you’ll be able to return to work, engage in normal exercise, and return to a normal sex life. However, women should avoid becoming pregnant during the first year after a transplant. It’s best to consult with your doctors about sex and pregnancy.