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5 Things You Can Do to Help Yourself During a Transplant

Patients ask me all the time what they can do to help themselves during their transplant. I have to say that my answer has evolved over the years. There was I time when I thought I was in control of most of what happens. I have since comes to realize that my patients hold great power.  They should, and can,take charge of their treatment to better the outcome. What you do, what you eat, what you feel and think, who you surround yourself with, will affect what happens to you. So here is what you can do to help yourself:

  1. Be in training for your transplant
    Don’t waste a minute. Once you have met with your transplant doctor and you know you are a candidate for transplantation, you are in training for your transplant. If you had signed up for a 5k run you would train for it right? So you are signing up for a transplant! Train for it! Start eating well, exercising and preparing your mind for this journey. No smoking, no pouting, no woe is me! And rally the troops, speak to your family and your friends. Your social circle will help you through this journey.
  1. Keep your mind strong
    I believe that this is the most important thing. The hospital stay can be boring and depressing. Find something to keep yourself occupied, work on your computer, make a puzzle, color, build a Lego, paint, make jewelry. You are a musician? Bring your guitar or keyboard. Have a plan before you check in to the hospital as to what you are going to do to at the hospital. I have had patients bring in computers, easels, even a piano!  Don’t think at the hospital time as wasted time. Make the most of it. This will then trickle to the outpatient period. Stay busy at home, have projects and goals outside the medical stuff.
  1. Focus on your nutrition
    Your body will be making new blood cells, fighting infections, you will be recuperating from chemotherapy. To get your strength back you will need to build muscles and for this, protein intake has to be sufficient. On average 1 gram per kg per day of protein.Your new forming blood cells need vitamins found in fruits and vegetables. You will need enough dietary calcium to maintain bone health. A probiotic? In general they are probably good, but transplant patients have to wait until their immune system is strong enough so ask your doctor.
  1. Exercise
    There is no way to get around this one. The body needs to move. In the hospital stay away from your bed unless you are sleeping. Don’t eat in bed, don’t watch TV in bed, don’t work on your computer in bed. You get my point. Lying in bed can increase you risk of blood clots and pneumonia, it’s depressing and will make you weak. Walking is great, put your Fit Bit on and take it to the hallway! Light weights, bands, bike, go for it. Keep track of what you did and plan your day in advance. Too tired? It’s not a race, take your time, walk slowly but try to get out there.
  1. Communicate
    I’m sure you have heard this one from your spouse or significant other, communication is key to any relationship. Well, it’s the same thing with your transplant team. Speak to them, your nurse, doctor, social worker. Ask your questions and make sure you get the answer you need. Share how you feel, your fears, your complaints your joy. This way you will not feel isolated and we can better serve your needs.