WHAT IS A TRANSPLANT?
The replacement of a sick organ or tissue without any possibility of recovery with a fully-working one.
The organs that can be transplanted are: the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas and intestines.
The tissues that can be transplanted are: corneas, skin, bones and heart valves. Face, arm, hand and leg transplants can also be performed.
WHAT’S THE TRANSPLANT PROCESS?
Different medical tests are carried out on the donor and possible recipients, selecting a recipient who is compatible with the donor. Then the organ is removed by means of a surgical procedure and the recipient is prepared for surgery. Finally, the donated organ is implanted.
In the case of dead donors, the organ is preserved to keep it in usable conditions and prepared for transportation to the recipient’s hospital.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I NEED A TRANSPLANT?
Only a doctor can decide if a transplant is needed. The doctors treating you will be responsible for carrying out all the necessary tests, to discover if you are a transplant candidate.
If you are a candidate, the doctor heading the program will register you, free of charge, in a database (the National Transplants Registry) and issue proof of registration with all your information.
For more information, go to the website of the National Transplants Center: https://www.gob.mx/cenatra
WHERE ARE TRANSPLANTS PERFORMED?
In Mexico, transplants mainly cover the cornea, kidneys, liver, heart, bone marrow, heart valves and bone.
Transplants are carried out in different institutions around the country, such as National Health Institutes, Specialized Hospitals, the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute), the ISSSTE (State Workers’ Social Security and Services Institute) and in some private hospitals. For more information according to the type of transplant and where you live, see your doctor and go to the website of the National Transplants Center: https://www.gob.mx/cenatra
Once you have received your transplant, you must lead a healthy life. Therefore, it is indispensable that you follow a series of basic rules, so that you can return to normal life as soon as possible.
For the first six months after the surgery, these rules or cares —which range from hygiene, diet, to physical activity— are decisive for a successful long-term outcome.
You must control your blood pressure, temperature and weight.
If you get a fever and/or high blood pressure, you should contact your after-transplant physician (nephrologist or gastroenterologist), who will monitor your case.
Protective isolation measures
According to experts, there is higher risk of infection and rejection of the new organ during the first six months. During this stage, immunosuppression is at its highest level, and therefore you must take the following precautions:
- Gradually go back to your social life (receiving visits or going out with people).
- Avoid enclosed spaces, with smoke or a lot of people. If this isn’t possible, you should always use a facemask as protection during the first weeks.
- You should also use the facemask in the case that anyone nearby has a contagious illness, such as cold, chickenpox, tuberculosis, etc.
- You should resume your vaccination program six months after the transplant.
The after-transplant diet must be healthy and balanced. You should not eat salt or only very little.
Prevent overweight by looking after your diet. The corticoids prescribed to prevent rejection increase your appetite and can cause weight gain, especially in the case of a kidney transplant, which can negatively affect the new organ and increases risk of heart problems. You should weigh yourself frequently to control your evolution.
Drink lots of liquids, especially water; avoid water from unknown sources, milk and dairy products that are not regulated by health standards, e.g. water from wells and rivers. Before eating fruit and vegetables, wash them with water and disinfectant.
You should always wash your hands before and after handling food, and you must NOT drink alcoholic beverages.
So as to properly return to your family and social life with a new outlook, you should recover your self-esteem and go back to work in a suitable timeframe, as this also helps your overall rehabilitation.
Shower every day and clean your teeth and mouth after every meal, using fluoride toothpaste. Don’t share your personal items (toothbrush, combs, towels, cutlery, kitchen gloves or sponges). Cut long nails but never cut the cuticle.
To begin with, light physical exercise is recommended (walking for 1 hour per day). You can gradually increase the intensity of your exercise (swimming, riding a bike). It’s important that you protect the zone of the implant from being hit during any sport or game. Finally, above all avoid harmful habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking.
Don’t stay in enclosed public spaces with a lot of people for at least the first 2 months after the transplant, nor should you be exposed to direct sunlight. If you have to be in the sun, apply sunscreen with the highest FPS.
In general, you must follow your treatment to the letter, especially the anti-rejection drugs (immunosuppressants), as the correct working of your new organ and your life depend on them. The main recommendations include:
- Remember to take your immunosuppressant drugs, and at the recommended times. Use an alarm clock or your mobile phone to remind you.
- In case of missing a dose, take it as soon as you remember that you forgot to take it.
- When seeing other specialists, always tell them that you have had a transplant.
- If your doctor or other expert prescribes a new drug, tell your after-transplant specialist.
- You might suffer from side effects of the drugs, but you should never change the dose by yourself without first seeing your specialist (nephrologist, gastroenterologist, cardiologist, etc.).
- You must undergo any required studies and laboratory analyses, and always attend your doctor’s appointments.