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Tue, Sep 5 11:05am · What to Expect: Post Transplant Care

The road to transplantation can be long and full of challenges, but your journey doesn’t end the day you receive your transplant. In fact, your new life is just beginning. The post-transplant process of keeping your new organ healthy and viable is just as important as that initial decision to move forward with surgery. Try to view your ongoing care as an opportunity to invest in your health and well-being, rather than seeing it as a burden. Here are some milestones to expect after you have received your organ transplant.2017-07-31 Post Transplant F/U Post

Periodic Lab Tests and Medication Adjustments

From the moment you’re transplanted, you will begin a medication regimen that will last the rest of your life. Taking your medications on time and at the proper dosage is critically important. Your transplant center will monitor your medication levels with periodic blood draws and will let you know if adjustments are needed. In the immediate days following your surgery, you can expect blood draws often, even once or more per day. As the days and weeks go by, these blood draws will become less frequent, but your transplant center or local doctor will always be keeping an eye on your medication levels and the function of your new organ. Some of our patients tell us that the person who draws their blood becomes a good friend because they see them more than anyone!

Follow Up Visits to Your Transplant Center

After your transplant surgery, your transplant care team will want to see you back at the transplant center periodically to assess the function of your organ and overall health. The timing of these visits can be different at different transplant centers and dependent upon your medical condition after transplant. For most organ transplants at Mayo Clinic, we’ll ask you to visit four months and one year after your transplant, and then every year thereafter. Each of these visits is usually only a couple of days but could be more depending upon how you’re feeling and how long you’ve had your new organ.

Emergent Follow Up Visits

As a post-transplant patient, you’ll soon find out that your medical issues don’t always comply with your schedule. Often times, you might need to see a doctor in between the regular scheduled visits back to your transplant center. At Mayo Clinic, we’re always willing to see you any time you need us; however, we also understand that many of our patients are from far away and would rather not hop a plane every time they’re sick. We encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to establish care with a local doctor once you go back home after your surgery. Many times when you’re ill, we’re able to communicate with your local doctor for lab work and treatment so you don’t have to travel to see us, especially if your illness is common or not directly related to your organ transplant.

Communication with Your Nurse Coordinator

If you receive your transplant at Mayo Clinic, post-transplant RN care coordinators are available to you by phone and via patient online services. In between your visits to the transplant center, your nurse coordinator or one of their colleagues can assist you with questions regarding illness, medications and new symptoms. If your transplant team is not Mayo Clinic, be sure you have a communication plan set up with them.

Mayo Clinic physicians monitor patients closely so that each patient gets the care he or she needs when it’s needed. This approach ensures the success of the transplant in collaboration with you and your local physician. Your ongoing health after transplant is very important to us, and to your family and friends. Making those follow-up visits and communications back to your transplant center can be an important part of keeping your organ healthy so you can live a long and happy life.

If you are a post-transplant patient, did anything surprise you about your post-transplant care?

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Tue, Jun 20 10:00am · Kidney Paired Donation and the Mayo Experience

Today almost 118,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant and nearly 100,000 of those are waiting for a kidney. Increasing the number of possible living donors and coming up with innovative ways to get more people transplanted are two of the best ways to reduce this waiting list. One unique innovation doctors have used to transplant more kidney candidates is paired donation kidney transplant.

Kidney transplants can be performed from a deceased or living donor. Living donors are often a family or friend, but they can also be anonymous, non-directed donors, meaning they are not donating to someone they know. Often, when someone wishes to donate anonymously, that donation can spark a chain of kidney transplants, a process known as paired donor kidney transplant. Generally, non-directed donors are genuinely altruistic, very giving and unselfish people.2017-06-14 Kidney Paired donor blog

In kidney paired donation, the non-directed kidney donation goes to someone who had a donor lined up, but the donor was not a compatible match. That donor then “pays forward” their donation to someone else who is waiting. Living donation gives transplant patients a chance for better quality of life and a longer life. Living donor surgery can be planned, and if possible, the patient can be transplanted before dialysis is needed. Kidney paired donation is only available for living donor transplants.

Mayo Clinic performed its first paired kidney donation in 2007 with a two-way paired donation. A son desperately wanted to donate to his father, but their blood types weren’t a match. However, the son had the option to swap his kidney with someone else who had a donor that didn’t match. Mayo Clinic was able to find another donor/recipient pair that was incompatible due to antibody resistance. The pairs matched and the transplants were performed in November 2007.

With nearly 10 years of experience facilitating paired donor kidney transplants, Mayo Clinic has now completed approximately 270 transplants using this model, which is still being used today. Mayo Clinic has also established a relationship with the National Kidney Registry (NKR). Working with NKR has allowed Mayo Clinic to expand the donor pool for recipients because NKR matches living donors and recipients through a national registry with transplant hospitals throughout the United States. With a large pool of donors and recipients, more exact matches can be made, which allows for optimal long-term outcomes.

Kidney Paired Donation at Mayo Clinic by the Numbers:

  • Nearly 270 kidney transplants performed via paired donation in the past 10 years
  • Non directed donors created 65 chains, facilitating 181 transplants
  • Non-directed donors need to be at least 21 years old
  • The oldest living donor was in their 70s

Becoming a donor is a choice you need to make for yourself. You should not feel pressured to be tested or to donate. Not everyone can be a donor and not everyone should be a donor. A person needs to be medically healthy and psychosocially stable and financially in a good position to take time off work. By qualifying to be a living donor, whether for someone you know and love or just because you know there is a need, you could save the lives of many people by starting a chain of kidney transplants through the paired donor process we described. If you would like more information about kidney donation, visit our living donor toolkit.

 

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Tue, Apr 11 8:10am · Transplant Myths and Facts

National Donate Life Month provides the opportunity to promote organ donation to those who haven’t found it in their hearts to sign up yet. It’s important that potential donors have complete and trusted information about the organ donation process.image-ddd440ec0181

It can be hard to think about what’s going to happen to your body after you die, but being an organ donor is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be made now. You can discuss your desire to be a donor with your family, so in their time of grief, they aren’t left debating your wishes.

Sadly, there are a number of myths that prevent people from becoming an organ donor. Have you said no to organ donation or delayed your decision to become a donor because of things you’ve heard people say about donation and transplant? Here are some fears we hear from patients, along with answers to common myths and concerns.

MYTH: As a recipient, I may develop personality traits or likes/dislikes of my donor through their organ donation.

FACT: While some recipients have claimed to notice personality changes or changes in their likes and dislikes post-transplant, there is no medical evidence to support that these changes are due to the donor organ. Some medications taken after a transplant may affect your taste buds which could affect your food preferences.

MYTH: You have to be related to a recipient in order to be a living donor.

FACT: Most living kidney donors are a family member or friend. A donor does not need to be related to the person who receives the kidney. Some people who want to be kidney donors do not have a certain person in mind to receive the kidney. This is called a non-directed donation.

Most living liver donors are a family member or friend. Mayo Clinic requires that living liver donors have a relationship with the person receiving part of their liver.

Whatever your reason is for considering living donation, it’s important to understand the process and take time to make your decision. Learn more in our Living Donor Toolkit.

MYTH: I can’t donate my kidney because my loved one isn’t on dialysis yet.

FACT: Patients who are nearing kidney failure and are not yet on dialysis can have a kidney transplant pre-emptively, before they have a need for dialysis. A transplanted kidney performs 100% of a kidney’s function. Dialysis only performs 10%. Additionally, kidney transplant recipients have significantly greater chance of survival compared to dialysis patients.

MYTH: Organ donation is against my religion.

FACT: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions. These religions include Roman Catholicism, Islam, most branches of Judaism and most Protestant faiths. If you’re unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith’s position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.

MYTH: If I agree to donate my organs, the hospital staff won’t work as hard to save my life.

Fact: In the event of a medical emergency that results in trauma or a serious brain injury, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else’s. You’ll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular condition. If life-saving measures are not successful, your family may be approached about the possibility of donating your organs.

MYTH: I’m too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.

FACT: There’s no defined cutoff age for donating organs. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age.

So why should you consider organ donation? Now that you have the facts, you can see that being an organ donor can make a big difference, sometimes to many people. By donating your organs after you die, you can save or improve as many as 85 lives. By being a living donor, you can improve someone’s quality of life who may not be able to wait for a deceased donor organ.

It’s especially important to consider becoming an organ donor if you belong to an ethnic minority. Minorities including African-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Hispanics are more likely than Caucasians to have certain chronic conditions that affect the kidneys, heart, lung, pancreas and liver. Certain blood types are more prevalent in ethnic minority populations. Because matching blood type is usually necessary for transplants, the need for minority donor organs is especially high.

Read more about organ donation and when you feel educated and ready, sign up to be a donor. Your decision could save lives.

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Thu, Jan 26 9:40am · Your Living Kidney Donor Isn't a Match - Now What?

You’ve just been to your chosen transplant center for your evaluation for kidney transplant, and your living donor has been evaluated as well. The donor evaluation results are in. Your donor is a good candidate to be a kidney donor, but not a match for you. Your heart sinks. But you’re not alone.

Another donor-recipient pair in the same transplant center has just received the same news. If only you could swap your donor for that other person’s donor and you could both have a kidney transplant by next week. Years ago, this would’ve been a hypothetical scenario. Today it’s a reality.

Paired kidney donation is an innovative practice that some centers, including Mayo Clinic, are participating in to help recipients receive a living donor transplant when their donor is not a compatible match for them. Paired donation can involve two donor-recipient pairs or more, and can lessen the time spent waiting for a kidney transplant.2017-1-12 Kidney Paired Donation Tx Blog

If you’ve found a living kidney donor who is open to exchanging their kidney with someone they don’t know in order for you to receive the best possible match, contact a transplant center that offers paired donation to schedule an evaluation.

Have you participated in paired donation? Leave your thoughts below so others can hear your first-hand experience!

Dec 1, 2016 · Hand Washing 101: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

“Don’t forget to wash your hands!” You’ve been hearing it since you were a kid. In fact, you’ve probably heard it so many times, you don’t even think about it as you go through the motions. But since washing well and washing often is your first line of defense against germs, it’s one of the best ways to stay healthy.

Germs accumulate on your hands throughout the day as you come into contact with food, other people, and various objects. As those same hands rub your eyes, itch your nose, or brush your lips throughout the day, you run the risk of passing those germs into your body. While it’s impossible to keep your hands completely germ-free, washing your hands can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes keeping illness at bay.

Hand washing for transplant patients 

Hand washing is important for anyone, but especially for those with medical conditions, including people on transplant waiting lists and recent transplant recipients.

Without immunosuppressant (or anti-rejection) drugs, your body would treat your life-saving organ like a germ and attack it after your transplant. These medicines block your body’s natural defenses, which allow your new organ to thrive. Unfortunately, they can also block your body’s natural defenses against germs, making it all the more important for you to be proactive against germs.

When should I wash?

Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing or eating food
  • Treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes, or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes
  • Shaking hands with others

Is there a right way to wash? image-97d733c2069f

In this video, Mayo’s Gregory A. Poland, M.D., teaches Jimmy Kimmel the proper method for hand washing with “W.L.S.R.D.”

  1. Wet your hands with running water
  2. Lather with soap
  3. Scrub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and under your fingernails
  4. Rinse well
  5. Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer. If possible, use a towel or your elbow to turn off the faucet

Should you use warm or cold water?

Warm water is preferable to cold, and most people find it a more comfortable temperature to use. Cold water doesn’t remove germs and oils as well as warm water. Oils can hold bacteria and germs, so it’s important to remove them as much as possible.

How effective is hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer doesn’t eliminate germs as well as soap and water, particularly if your hands are visibly dirty. However, if soap and water is not available, hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol are a good alternative.

Is antibacterial soap better?

Antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than regular soap. Using antibacterial soap might even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product’s antimicrobial agents, making it harder to kill these germs in the future. If possible, use regular soap.

Do you have good habits when it comes to hand washing? Did they change when you became a transplant patient?

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Oct 4, 2016 · Getting Ready for Flu Season: Should I Get Vaccinated?

2016-10-04 flu shotIf you’re like many people, your “to do” list is growing longer and longer now that the warm months are behind us. Maybe your list involves packing away the beach supplies, pulling out your warmer clothes, or doing yard work to prepare for that dreaded white stuff. Does your list of to dos also include getting a flu shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated annually against influenza. Mayo Clinic recommends annual influenza vaccination to all transplant candidates, transplant recipients, their caregivers and other close contacts inactivated influenza vaccination. As a transplant patient, you should not receive the FluMist, nor should any of your caregivers or close contacts. The FluMist is a live virus vaccine and could cause you to become ill. Although not 100% effective, getting a flu shot is worth the needle stick. Flu shots are the most effective way to prevent influenza and its complications.

If you are a transplant patient at another facility, contact your care team to ask about their recommendations for the flu season.

What you can do

In addition to getting your flu shot, remember to practice good hygiene as another safeguard against flu season.

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer on your hands if soap and water aren’t available
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible
  • Avoid crowds when the flu is most prevalent in your area
  • Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, eat a nutritious diet, and manage your stress

Do you get your flu shot every year? Tell us about your experience.

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