What's the recovery time on transplant surgery?
August 22, 2012 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting a master's course soon. My mother is giving my brother a kidney a month later. Am I going to be needed at home?

What's the general recovery time and process for transplant surgery, and is it a bad idea for me to be moving right before it happens? My brother is receiving a kidney transplant, and my mother is the donor; we all still live at home, so after it's done there'll be two post-transplant patients to look after. My dad will be there, but he's getting on (he's 74, although he's not frail or anything; he still works as a gardener and groundskeeper. My mother is 55, my brother 29, I'm 26) and I don't want to leave him solely responsible for looking after them if it's going to be a lot of work.

I can commute (hour and a half drive) but half the point of taking this course was to leave home and put myself in a completely new environment so I could get new connections and etc etc (I must hasten that that's not the only reason I'm taking it. The master's is a conversion Computer Science course teaching java programming; my original degree was English, and I want to gain some technical skills to give me a bit more of an edge in finding a job). I can't shake the thought that if I stay at home, finishing the course is going to end up making no difference; I'll just end up picking up my old bartending job again and spending another x years failing to get anywhere (I graduated four years ago and spent the whole time since then as a bartender and, briefly, a data entry clerk; my current home is in a small country town with basically no job opportunities. And I severely dislike the place besides. If I'm in a city I'm far more likely to find something (still not a guarantee, granted, but I'll take even a slim chance at this point)).

My current plan was to move, and commute back if they needed me; but I'm not sure how much I'm going to be needed. So... if anyone's got experience in these things, I'd sure appreciate a lecture. Cheers.
posted by Fen to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Whatever you do, make a schedule. Maybe you can come back for weekends and work on homework and help with your mom then.
posted by gjc at 6:45 AM on August 22, 2012

I went cross country to care for a friend who received a kidney from his dad. I was incredibly surprised at how quickly they both recovered. The donor was out of the hospital in a day, I think, and the recipient fairly quickly after that. The donor didn't seem to need any care (for reference, he was about your mom's age, generally in good shape I would say). The recipient was in his 30's and also in good shape. He needed a bit of assistance but not much.

The doctors should be able to help you figure this out. I'm sure the answer can vary depending on the type of surgery and how it goes. But if it went anything like the one I saw, you might be needed at home for one weekend, maybe to cook and clean more than anything else, but wouldn't think that it would have long-term impact on your studies. Unless something goes wrong, which, I suppose, being major surgery, it could.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:16 AM on August 22, 2012

I think these are really excellent questions to ask the transplant team. Specifically, ask your brother's physician if there is a social worker attached to the team who could help with planning for care post surgery. First, they'll have better information about what to expect in terms of recovery for both your mom and your brother, but they may also be able to point your family toward some resources in the community, like a home health aid or something like that, who could assist if needed in the recovery.
posted by goggie at 7:19 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Are there other family members nearby who can pitch in if help is needed? Are your parents members of any social or religious organizations whose members might help? Do they have caring neighbors?

Does your dad cook? Do you? If you do you could make a bunch of casseroles and freeze them for post-surgery days. It might be fun to do it with your dad.
posted by mareli at 8:26 AM on August 22, 2012

I have no experience with transplants but my dad had a kidney removed about ten years ago and I remember that it was at least a few weeks before he was allowed to drive again, so maybe you can do things like pick up groceries or other supplies for your family once or twice a week. This list from the Cleveland Clinic might give you some ideas of what to expect as far as recovery goes.
posted by jabes at 9:01 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everybody else above has made great points.

In my case (recipient), it was about a week in hospital. I appreciated visits in the hospital, but your mother and brother will almost certainly be in adjoining beds, so they'll have someone to talk to. My understanding is that in the US, patients are discharged slightly earlier, which means there's more of a home care aspect. So there could be a couple of days about a week after the surgery where your presence would be helpful.

The next few days I spent at my mother's place, as much as for her sake as for mine. I moved back home about 10 days after the transplant (I live alone). I was back at my desk job about six weeks post surgery.

So the first week is in hospital; the second week you're still too beat up to do a lot of getting up and doing stuff, but after that, I was able to keep my own household running. The main restriction for the two month recovery period is in lifting heavy objects.

If you come home for the first few weekends, you can give your father a break to go off and do what he wants, can help with chores and can assist if there are any two-person chores. That will be the key period.

I'm assuming here that your father is relatively willing and able to do the chores to keep the household running; cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. Some dudes of his generation aren't too up on traditional "woman's work", but obviously you know on which side of the divide he lands. Some of this can also be done in advance; precooking meals in the freezer, making sure that all the clothes are laundered before; things like that.

But (knock wood) the recovery time is short enough that it doesn't make sense for you to derail your life plans over.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:54 AM on August 22, 2012

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