Things you never talk about before it’s time for a kidney transplant

By Mark Noble
Caregiver/husband

So at bedtime this evening, I started to wonder to myself (and then aloud) “Gee, will I be able to share a bed with you (Nancy) after your surgery?” Will you need to be all by yourself for awhile, wearing a mask, and kept from society? And, if so, for how long?

I know it sounds silly, but I’m sure there are rules. I know now for example that Nancy will not have to wear a mask unless instructed by the surgical teams. I’m hoping she won’t have to, but I can see the value in it. But I wanted to learn more about the risky periods and what else I should know as the caregiver. So, I consulted the National Kidney Foundation website the other evening and learned that, among other things, I learned:

“As a transplant recipient, you will be at risk for getting infections. Your immunosuppressant medications make your body’s immune system less active. This helps to prevent rejection of your new kidney, but makes it harder for your body to fight off infections. Fifty percent of transplant recipients get an infection during the first year. Infections can be mild to life-threatening. Your risk for infection will lessen over time. Understanding when you are most at risk – and why – can help.

Early Risk Period

“The first 30 days after your transplant is your highest risk period for infection. You are in the hospital and getting large doses of immunosuppressant medications. Being in the hospital exposes you to possible infection. The most common types are urinary tract infections, wound infections, and upper respiratory infections. Bacterial and yeast infections (a type of fungus) are less common. You will be closely supervised for infection during this time. You will probably be given medications to help prevent infections.

Middle Risk Period

“From two to six months after transplantation, your immunosuppressant medications are being decreased, and the risk for rejection is high. Opportunistic infections are common.

Late Risk Period

The period after six months is fairly stable for most transplant recipients. You will be on your regular dose of immunosuppressant medications. You will be getting back to some normal activities. If you have not had all the vaccinations you need, this is the time to think about getting them up to date. You are at risk for opportunistic infections. Screening for cancers is very important. Early detection with early treatment is important.”

There is so much more to learn. I probably need to join a caregivers group to learn the ins and outs. So, I plan to stop by the transplant office to learn more.

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