Main content

    Lean On Me: Strong Support System is Key For Transplant Recipients

    by Patrice Chamberlain, Pamela Rock, LCSW, and April Ellis, MSW

    Imagine finally getting the call that you’ve been waiting for—that a possible kidney match has been found. Are you sure you have a ride to the hospital? How about someone to take you home and get you settled post-transplant?

    One of the most crucial elements in preparing for a kidney transplant is establishing your support plan. That means identifying and coordinating with a person or network of people who can assist you both before and after surgery. Unlike in-center dialysis, the transplant process requires a greater level of independence as you are responsible for coordinating logistics such as transportation, paperwork and medications. Kidney Transplant Social Workers Pamela Rock, LCSW, and April Ellis, MSW, suggest the following to ensure you get the support that you need:

    Have Support in Place

    If a support system is not already in place, identify a reliable person who can assist you during the pre- and post-transplant period. Your support person should be in good health, have access to a reliable car, and be comfortable driving to and around San Francisco. A support team may include family members, friends, neighbors, or fellow congregation or civic group members.

    Have a Plan

    A good organization system will make it easier for you and your support team. Start by discussing beforehand with your support person his/her role and responsibilities. Keep paperwork in one place, making sure everything is kept up-to-date including insurance and physician correspondence. Write down important phone numbers so that it is easy for your support person or team to reach one another and your physician. Have a notebook handy to manage communication such as medication administration times, grocery or pharmacy needs, and questions for your physician.

    During your hospital stay, your support person should plan to participate in educational sessions. This includes learning about your new medications, tracking upcoming appointments and learning signs of potential problems.

    Plan Your Transportation and Travel Logistics

    Make sure you have reliable transportation and that you will have a ride to the hospital whether it is 5:00 a.m. or 5:00 p.m. Your support person will need to plan for parking fees, bridge tolls, lodging, and getting time off work if necessary. Following your kidney transplant, you will be unable to drive for a minimum of three to four weeks, so plan accordingly.

    Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

    The transition from dialysis to living with a transplant presents a major life change. It requires both physical and emotional adjustment—an adjustment made easier when you have someone to lean on. Your support person or network can offer emotional help as you adjust to your new life and contemplate the opportunities ahead.

    A support person is critical to helping you get to the hospital for your transplant and helping with your post-transplant recovery.

    article from Fall Winter 2010 Kidney Review newsletter