It takes about 2-3 months for an average patient to recover from a solid organ transplantation and be able to say I start feeling great! The first several weeks after surgery new patients usually call me, as a transplant coordinator, 2-3 times a week. Most of the time it is due to anxiety. After that 3 months threshold, providing everything is good, we barely hear from some of the patients anymore. In a way, it is a good thing because it means they are doing well. When a patient feels great, trouble can find them because they are somehow getting non-compliant to a different degree. Here are the top mistakes that I see on a daily basis that could threaten long term survival.
1. Not having a project
A lot of patients become invalid during the disease process and remain so after the transplant. They end up with a lot of free time while feeling great and have no project whatsoever. The main activity of the day is what leads us to the next mistake: eating. Please find something to do!! Volunteer, school or work.
2. Putting on weight
Sick patients, especially the ones with breathing problems, tend to lose weight because they burn a lot of energy to survive. Once they get a transplant and feel a 100% better, those pounds starts piling on. I have seen as much as 25 pounds gain a month for one patient!! Extra weight increases blood pressure and blood sugar and decrease long term survival because of all the complications associated with obesity.
3. Not checking their vitals signs
Why would I have to keep checking my blood pressure, I feel good? This is a question heard during office visits. Well, because one of your transplant medicines side effects increases your blood pressure. Also carrying those extra pounds will make your BP go up. This is the most common answer I hear from the physicians which is funny because the patients are not expecting someone to frankly tell them they are fat!
4. Not drinking enough water
Anti-rejection medicines are tough for the kidneys. In order to protect them and avoid a kidney transplant down the road, it is very important to stay well hydrated. The best thing our physicians recommend is water. Just plain water. In most of the other drinks you have caffeine that acts like a diuretic and will dehydrate you or sugar who contributes to weight gain and higher blood sugar. Water is the tastiest drink when someone is thirsty.
5. Waiting at the last minute to have their medications refilled
Stay on top of things. You should know when you are getting low on supplies and should order new refills at least 2 weeks ahead of time for mail-in pharmacy or 1 week for local drug store. You don’t want to run out on a thanksgiving week-end. Unfortunately, it does happen. These meds are life-saving so please don’t mess with that. Don”t try to blame your coordinator when you are late!
To be continued