A transplant is a surgical procedure where a healthy kidney from a donor (either someone who has died or a person who is alive) is placed into your body. The new kidney will then perform the work of your kidneys and will filter your blood and dialysis will not be needed. But it is not a cure and not everyone is able to get a transplant.
A kidney transplant is a treatment choice that may last for many years or for only a short time. Transplants usually last longer when the person:
Takes the required transplant medication daily to keep the body from rejecting the new kidney;
Is physically active and exercises regularly;
Is not overweight;
Does not smoke;
If the person drinks alcohol, does so only in moderation;
Eats healthy food and avoids rare meat and raw fish;
Avoids situations that could increase infections, if possible;
Has good hygiene and washes hands frequently;
Has regular check ups with the transplant team and family physician;
Lives a healthy lifestyle.
Benefits of Getting a Transplant
Getting a transplant has some advantages over dialysis including:
No longer need dialysis treatment
Fewer food and fluid restrictions
Improved quality of life and more independence
Potentially increased life span
Even with modern medical advances, getting a transplant is still a big decision and isn’t for everyone. First, it is a surgery and no matter how routine a surgery is, there is always a risk for complications. The surgery itself can be expensive and drugs necessary to keep the kidney after the surgery can also be costly. In addition, there are certain qualifications that need to be met to get on the waiting list.
Transplant Screening Process
If you are interested in having a kidney transplant, you will need to work with your health care team to make sure you can do well with one. There is a transplant screening process that you must go through to be approved for the transplant wait list. All transplant centers will make sure you are a good candidate for a transplant.
They will examine your physical health, your mental health, your financial resources (can you afford your medications after your transplant), and if you have a support system (can someone take you to the hospital to get your transplant, help care for you during your healing process, and get you to post-transplant appointments).
The transplant team also looks at how well you follow your doctor’s orders and if you take your present prescriptions correctly. If you are currently on dialysis, they also will review how often you skip treatment or sign off early which could keep you off of the transplant list, at least until you show that you are able to follow the treatment needed for dialysis. Some health care staff believe that if you are not compliant to your dialysis treatment, you may not follow the necessary treatment steps to keep a new kidney.
Some transplant facilities have specific guidelines you need to meet such as weight requirements, no smoking, and no illegal drugs. Your transplant team will help you every step of the way in the process. And some centers have “patient navigators” who also can answer some of your questions from a personal point of view and help you stay focused on the steps of the transplant process.
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