Recovery in the hospital

  • Before your child can go home, the transplant team will continue to provide care in the hospital for about one week, though sometimes a longer hospital stay is needed.
  • While in the hospital, your child may have blood tests to check on their new kidney, and given medicines to help with pain.
  • The nurse will help your child walk everyday (including the day of the surgery), and coach your child through deep breathing exercises needed for healing.
  • Some children may need to go on dialysis briefly after the transplant before their new kidney starts working fully. This doesn’t mean the kidney is a bad one; it just needs a bit more time to start working. This is more likely to happen if your child got a kidney from a deceased donor.
  • Before your child leaves the hospital, transplant team members will talk with you, your child, and family members about caring for your child, and the importance of properly taking their medicines to keep their new kidney healthy.

Adjusting at home

  • Your child will need to limit physical activities until the surgery area is fully healed.
  • Your child should not participate in sports or rough play until the doctor tells you it is safe.
  • Keep your child’s surgery spot clean and dry to prevent infection.
  • Do not allow you child to be near people who are sick.
  • Pets can carry germs, talk to your child’s doctor about when it is safe for them to play with pets.

Medicines to keep the new kidney healthy

There are medicines that your child will need to take every day for as long as they have their new kidney. The medicines are called immunosuppressants, or also known as anti-rejection medicines. Your child’s immune system, which protects the body from germs and harmful cells, may not recognize the cells from the donated kidney right away, then begin to attack the new kidney as if it were any other disease or germ. To help prevent your child’s kidney from being rejected, immunosuppressant medicines must be taken to slow down the immune system so it is less likely to reject the new kidney. To learn more about immunosuppressants, click here.

Warning signs of rejection

It is always possible that your child’s body will try to reject the new kidney. If this begins to happen, it is extremely important to call the doctor right away.

If your child shows any of these signs below, you must call the transplant team right away!

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of the child’s body
  • Urinating very little
  • Pain or tenderness at the surgery wound
  • Fever
  • Symptoms similar to the flu – chills , nausea, headaches, body aches and pain

Your child may be given other medicines to help prevent infections and medicines for upset stomach. It is important that you do not give your child any other medicines, including over the counter medicines, unless you get permission from the transplant team first.

If you have trouble paying for these important medicines, contact your social worker or the transplant team to refer you to agencies that can help.

Lifestyle changes

Now that your child has received a kidney transplant, you and your family will need to make lifestyle changes to make sure your child stays healthy. You will probably notice over time that your child is feeling better, has more energy, is eating better, and is even starting to grow more quickly.

Your child’s transplant team can help with some of the life changes:

  • The social worker can help your child adjust to returning to school. They can also help you find resources to help with your financial needs to pay medical bills and buy the required medicines.
  • You, your child, and your family may need to adjust emotionally to this big change. Now that your child feels better and has more time to meet up with friends, this new social life and independence may be hard for different members of your family. The transplant team can assist with mental health issues.
  • The dietitian can help your child and your family learn about what foods will keep your child’s new kidney healthy.
  • Your child will need to see the kidney doctor (nephrologist) for regular blood tests and medical exams to check how well their new kidney is working.

As your child gets older, it is important that you teach them how to manage taking their required medicines and how to be active in their health care.

To help your child adjust to this new lifestyle, there are health education programs for children and teens with kidney disease and kidney transplants. There are also summer camps for children and teens with transplants to build social skills and to learn ways to live a healthy life as someone with a kidney transplant. Ask your transplant team for information about these programs in your area.