Organ Donation and Transplantation - Are work and a normal life possible after a transplant?
Many people feel back to normal after a transplant, once the operation and frequent clinic visits of the first three months are over. However, if you have read the sections on this website about drugs that you need to take and the possible complications of transplantation, you will realise that life never goes completely back to normal, though it can be very close to normal.
It is usual to take three months off work after a transplant, although some people can go back sooner. Most types of work are suitable after transplantation. You should discuss with your local transplant doctors any work which involves a lot of exposure to people with infections, or heavy lifting that might put direct pressure on the transplant wound or directly onto the kidney.
Most activities and sports are possible after the first few months of transplantation. There is an annual transplant games in Britain, regular transplant athletics events and winter transplant games internationally. Exercise is recommended for people with transplants. However, every individual has slightly different problems with their health, so discuss first with your doctors exactly what you want to do.
Because the kidney transplant is close to the skin, sports which involve heavy contact are not advisable because of the risk of damage to the transplant. Examples include Rugby Union and Rugby League (and the American and Australian version of the game) and martial arts combat sports. It is hard to wear a guard that will protect the kidney against injury. If someone is a professional sportsperson, it is possible to adapt the transplant operation so the kidney is deeper inside the body, but this makes it hard to perform a biopsy test for possible rejection so would not usually be recommended unless someone relied on the sport for their living.
Travel is something most people on dialysis look forward to after a transplant, and is generally possible and very enjoyable! Travel away for more than a couple of days is not recommended in the first three months after a transplant. Vaccinations that are safe for more exotic travel are listed elsewhere – click here for information.
Diet can be relaxed after a transplant, but not usually straight away! Keep checking your own blood results, because it is common to have high potassium levels for a few weeks after a transplant. It is therefore often not possible to go straight back to all those tomatoes and chocolate cakes with coffee.
Weight gain occurs in most transplant patients, as it is common to be underweight on dialysis. However, there is a major risk of becoming overweight, and it is important to watch what you eat right from the start. It is easier to avoid putting on weight than to lose it.
Fluid restrictions are common on dialysis, but are usually not needed after a transplant. Make sure you know what your fluid intake should be. Sometimes the transplanted kidney makes too much urine, so that drinking large amounts of fluid is needed. To take 4 litres every day can be quite hard if you have been used to less than 1 litre a day for several years.
The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.