Stage 5: Transplantation & Immediate Post Transplant Surgical Recovery

Stage 5 includes the transplant and the acute phase of recovery which generally spans 3 months. When the call comes in the patient does not know whether s/he will have a transplant or a “dry run”. A dry run occurs when the individual gets to the hospital and may even be on his/her way to the operating room when news arrives the organ is not viable. When this occurs the individual returns to Stage 4.

The actual surgical transplant is the most acutely stressful part of the process. The patient is unaware of the surgery, becoming increasingly aware of the pain and impact of high doses of drugs during the immediate post-surgical period. Fear and helplessness are mixed with hope. The individual is self-absorbed and influenced by high levels of anti-rejection medications which typically cause altered mental states. As individuals stabilize medically, attention transitions to discharge, and the subsequent challenges of self-management at home. Ideally after 7-10 days of healing, stabilizing, and educational period the individual leaves the hospital, although it is not unusual for complications such as rejection to extend the stay to take weeks or months of unpredictable and uncertain outcome.

Transplant teams medically monitor recipients for the remainder of their lives. The first three months is when the highest risk of acute rejection and re-hospitalization occurs. Stage 5 generally continues through this three month period. Three months is the first post-surgical benchmark for survival, and 1 of 10 people transplanted will not make it past this point. The recipient needs to stay close by the transplant center during the initial weeks following surgery. Highly immunosuppressed, the recipient is under close physical and laboratory monitoring with frequent visits to the transplant clinic. Recipients follow specific precautions to assist with physical healing and avoid infections. The focus of the team is on the body’s physiological responses to the transplanted organ, with support and reassurance to recipients and their families. Patients are central and all activities revolve around them. Everything is new, frightening, and exciting as the possibility of health returns.

This program will help you and the people who support you to work your way through the remainder of Stage 5- and through Stage 6 and Stage 7 when you experience a Return of Health.

Here is a bit of what we will be addressing:

During Stage 5, time is needed for healing. The body will need to adapt to the foreign organ. During this time the patient starts to feel healthy as the residual toxins left by the dysfunctional liver clear. The individual’s role of a transplant patient is central and there is a certain notoriety having received a transplant.


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