A chronic disease generally leaves the individual physically and emotionally drained and the chance to have an organ transplant brings with it a combination of anxiety and exhilaration.
In most cases, doctors generally recommend an organ transplant for those suffering from a chronic disease that has caused a major organ such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas or intestines to fail. The first step will be to visit a specialist who will decide if you are a candidate for an organ transplant. Once the specialist has deemed you to be a suitable candidate for an organ transplant, you will be entered into the transplant program where your name is added to the organ transplant waiting list.
Waiting lists for organ transplants exist because there is a shortage of suitable organs available for transplant. To get on to the waiting list, you will have to first choose a transplant center. You can ask your doctor to recommend a transplant center located near to you or locate one online at the website of United Network for Organ Sharing.
The transplant center you have chosen will then evaluate you to find out if you are a good candidate for an organ transplant. You will be undergoing a series of tests to decide if you are a suitable candidate for transplantation. All aspects of the transplantation will be discussed with you. A positive evaluation will result in your name being entered on the national waiting list. This will determine approximately how long you will have to wait before you receive your organ transplant. The waiting period may extend from a few days to months or even years and the uncertainty is often the most difficult part to deal with.
One thing that you need to know about organ transplantation is that your body's immune system will try to fight and destroy the foreign body (the transplanted organ) that has been implanted in it, on the same way it would try to fight off an infection. To prevent this from happening, you will be prescribed anti-rejection medicines that you will have to take for the rest of your life. These medicines come with their own set of side effects. For example, you may be prescribed steroids. Long term use of these medications may induce mood changes that you will have to learn to cope with. You will also have to make certain lifestyle changes such as dietary changes and exercise. Your medical team will inform you about these changes.
The period of waiting for your transplant is fraught with uncertainties. Since you do not know when the organ to be transplanted will be available, you will have to remain within easy reach of the transplant center. You must remember that receiving a donor organ is a huge responsibility. You will have to make a commitment to being responsible for your health as well as taking good care of the donor organ otherwise you may not be approved for a donor organ.
This means that you will have to remain in regular touch with your transplant team and keep all scheduled appointments. You should take all your medications as prescribed by your doctors. Your condition will be monitored on a regular basis using various tests such as blood tests and imaging tests. Dietary restrictions will have to be followed religiously and you will have to start following a healthy lifestyle. You may require the services of a psychiatrist or a psychologist to cope with any emotional issues that may arise during this time.
Maintaining a positive frame of mind will help you prepare for the transplant surgery and its aftermath. Remember, you are being gifted a precious asset which will help you to live a healthy life. Treat it as a privilege and make the most of this gift.