What happens after I go home?
Once you are home from the hospital, the most important work begins—the follow-up. For your transplant to be successful, you will have regular checkups, especially during the first year. At first, you may need blood tests several times a week, then once a week, then less often. As times passes, if you are doing well, you’ll need fewer checkups, but enough to make sure that your kidney is working well and that you have the right amount of anti-rejection medication in your body.
What if my body tries to reject the new kidney?
One thing that you and your healthcare team will watch for is acute rejection, which means that your body is suddenly “attacking” or trying to reject the transplanted kidney. A rejection episode may not have any clear signs or symptoms. That is why it is so important to have regular blood tests to check how well your kidney is working. Even though rejection can happen without symptoms, let your healthcare team know if you notice you are having fevers, peeing less or less often, swelling, weight gain, or pain over your kidney.
The chances of having a rejection episode are highest right after your surgery. The longer you have the kidney, the lower the chance that this will happen. Unfortunately, sometimes a rejection episode happens even if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do. Sometimes the body just doesn’t accept the transplanted kidney. But even if a rejection episode happens, there are many ways to treat it so you do not lose your transplant. Letting your transplant team know right away that you think you have symptoms of rejection is very important so they can treat it and help keep your transplanted kidney, and you, healthy.
How often does rejection happen?
Rejections happen much less often than they used to. That’s because there have been many improvements in immunosuppressive medicines. However, the risk of rejection is different for every person. For most people, rejection can be stopped with special anti-rejection medicines. It’s very important to have regular checkups and tests to see how well your kidney is working, and make sure you are not having rejection.
When can I return to work?
How soon you can return to work depends on your recovery, the kind of work you do, and your other medical conditions. Many people can return to work eight weeks or more after their transplant, but sometimes it can be sooner or later. Your transplant team will help you decide when you can go back to work.
How will a transplant affect my sex life? Can I still have children?
People who have not had satisfactory sexual relations due to kidney disease may notice an improvement as they begin to feel better. In addition, fertility (the ability to conceive and have children) tends to increase. Men who have had a kidney transplant have fathered healthy children, and women with kidney transplants have had successful pregnancies. Talk to your healthcare practitioner when considering having a child.
Women should avoid becoming pregnant too soon after a transplant. Most centers want women to wait a year or more. All pregnancies should be planned together with your care team. Certain medications can harm a developing baby, so they must be stopped at least six weeks before trying to get pregnant. Birth control or family planning counseling may be helpful.
It’s important to protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Be sure to use protection during sexual activity.
Will I need to follow a special diet?
In general, transplant recipients should eat a heart-healthy diet (low fat, low salt) and drink plenty of fluids. If you have diabetes or other health problems, you may still have some dietary restrictions. A dietitian can help you plan meals that are right for you.
What else can I do?
You should learn as much as you can by reading and talking to your healthcare team, as well as patients who already have kidney transplants.
To obtain a free copy of a brochure about kidney transplant, call 855.NKF.CARES (855.653.2273) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
and ask for “Kidney Transplant: What You Need to Know.”