After spending 24 hours in the recovery room, I was shifted to a private room. I was on top of the world, now that things were going to fall in place. To ensure my transplant was a success, the doctors counselled me on the do’s and don’ts after my surgery.
I was told not to meet anyone or go out for at least six months. Drink lots of water, which became a problem as on dialysis I had got used to drinking less water. Not to eat any raw foods or fruit juices and eat only home cooked food. I was asked to walk a lot too. Being physically active ensures good blood circulation which is important for the new kidney.
The big one, however, is immunosuppressants, which becomes your lifelong need to ensure the transplanted kidney is not rejected by your body.
Our body has immunity which fights any virus that enters our body as a foreign object. A transplanted organ is considered as a foreign object for the body and it works hard to fight it and throw out, which leads to organ rejection and failure. To avoid this, kidney transplant recipients are given immunosuppressants. They reduce the immunity level of the body to zero. It helps to keep the transplanted organ alive but at the same time, it immensely increases your chances of catching infections and falling sick.
A transplant patient needs to avoid crowded places and minimize interactions with people who are sick. The COVID times are pretty hard for people like me on immunosuppressants. The whole world is trying to build immunity, and we are taking medications to reduce it.
Immunosuppressants are extremely important, as missing a dose or two may lead to organ rejection and we are back to square one. I have created an ecosystem to ensure that I don’t miss on those tablets.
If I go out, I always have those tablets with me and even at home I keep these medications in rooms where I spend most of my time. I have alarms that remind me of the time that I need to take those, and I have instructed family members to check with me to see if I have taken my medication at 8 AM and 8 PM. There have been days when I have taken the medication but couldn’t recollect if I did, and I have called my doctor in a panic and he told me to take them again. You just can’t miss the immunosuppressant doses.
First year is very crucial in the transplant and a slight negligence can cause organ rejection. It is often said that a transplant is considered successful only after a year. How you take care of yourself in the first year and how your body adjusts in that period is a true indication of success.
There are few stories where I have read that patients have started to go out in month or two after their transplant. Please disregard these articles. We have received a gift of life and we should take maximum care of ourselves.
My brother was released from the hospital two days before me, as he was absolutely fine. He came to meet me in my room on his own, moved around and had absolutely no issues.
My hospital stay was full of scans, tests, physiotherapy and counselling with a nutritionist. I looked forward to going home, and after spending 10 days in the hospital, I was finally released. What a moment it was! During those 10 days, the house was cleaned, disinfected and my room was scrubbed spotless. The staff was instructed not to enter my room and if they do, they should wear a mask. If anyone was not even slightly well, they were asked to take a leave. We were trained for COVID a year and half ago itself.
It was wonderful to be back home. When I had left it was early in the morning and Sayali was sleeping. I had woken her up, hugged her and cried. Things can go any direction in such cases. She kissed me and said “All the best, Mom!” She gave me a warm welcome when I got back.
I started settling down and then came to know the drama that unfolded a day prior to my operation. The day before, the team of doctors that visited me had an anaesthetist who had doubted my fitness when it came to me undergoing the transplant. My heart function was little more than 30% and with my history of seizures and brain function she decided I was too weak to go forward with the transplant. Her main concern was that if I was given anaesthesia, I would not be able to wake up from it. She had a chat with the chief surgeon and both of them decided not to go ahead with it. My brother and I were already in the hospital.
My nephrologist called Dinesh and broke the news to him that the surgeon was not going ahead with transplant and he has already cancelled the operation theatre booking. Dinesh was shell shocked hearing that. His immediate reaction was “How can you do this at the last minute?” My doctor said, “It’s the surgeon’s decision and I have no control over it.” Dinesh tried to persuade him, but it was not in his control, as it was the surgeon and anaesthetist’s call.
Dinesh called our friend Dr. Sanjeev who previously worked with this hospital and knew the entire team in charge of my transplant. Sanjeev himself is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon and does heart and lung transplants. He spoke to each and every doctor involved and explained how he himself has checked me and is confident that I will be able to endure the transplant. The weak heart function was due to dialysis and if we wait it was going to get even weaker. In his words, “This is the perfect and last chance to get transplant. If we wait any more than the heart function will decrease even further.” He tried his best to convince the doctors and told Dinesh, “If they are not ready, then just put her in the ambulance and bring her to Mumbai. I will do it here.” Dinesh and I were fully aware of the risk involved and were willing to take a chance.
The other aspect was that they spoke to my brother and asked him if he is really sure he wants to go ahead with the kidney donation. There have been cases where the donor has opted out at the last moment. They told him with your sister, it is a high-risk procedure and if she doesn’t recover, he would lose a good kidney. My brother was nonchalant and said he will go ahead no matter what.
Finally, in the night it was decided the transplant will go as planned and it did.