No matter how long you are on the waiting list to receive a transplant, there are certain things you need to do to prepare for when your donor kidney becomes available. Once you are added to the waiting list, take steps to prepare for your transplant in the following areas:
- Child care: Arrange in advance for someone to care for your children (or other family members) during your transplant procedure and subsequent hospital stay, which typically lasts four to seven days. Your donor kidney may become available at any time, day or night, and you will have to immediately come to the hospital so it's important to arrange in advance who will take care of your family in your absence.
- Transportation: Arrange transportation to and from the hospital for both your transplant and your follow-up visits.
- Insurance benefits: Understand your insurance benefits, especially your co-pays, deductibles and prescription coverage. Your prescription plan may have a 90-day mail order option that would save you money. Also, determine whether you have medical leave or short-term disability benefits and complete the paperwork needed to receive them.
- Communication: Keep in touch monthly with your transplant nurse coordinator. Let the nurse know of any changes in your condition, as they might make you eligible to receive your donor kidney more quickly. In addition, let the nurse know if you move, change or add phone number(s), change dialysis centers, go on vacation, change insurance, are admitted to the hospital, have an infection that requires antibiotics, or have a transfusion. As you think of questions, call your team to discuss them.
- Wellness: Work with the dialysis staff to maximize your health, including maintaining a proper diet and exercising to the best of your ability. The healthier you are before surgery, the faster your recovery period may be.
- Advance directives: Prepare a living will stating your wishes regarding the medical treatment you want to receive or refuse if you become unable to make treatment decisions, unconscious for an indefinite period or dependent on others for care. Or designate someone with power of attorney to make these decisions on your behalf.
- Emotional health: Waiting for a transplant can be very stressful for patients and families. Develop your support system. Talk with friends and family about what you are experiencing. Consider attending a support group and writing in a journal about your experiences. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings, contact the social worker on your care team.
(Next: Transplant surgery)