If you have a living kidney donor, you will be able to schedule the date of your transplant.
If you are on the waiting list for a deceased donor kidney (a kidney from someone who has just died), as soon as a kidney becomes available you will get a phone call telling you to come to the hospital right away. Once you get to the hospital, you will have a blood test to make sure your body will not have a bad reaction to the donor’s blood. If the test does not show a problem, the doctors and nurses will prepare you for the transplant surgery.
It is important to know that you might arrive at the hospital, ready for your transplant, only to find out that the donor kidney is not healthy enough to give to you. If this happens, try not to be discouraged—another kidney could be available soon!
During the transplant surgery
You will be placed on your back on the surgery table. You will be given anesthesia, a medicine to make you sleep only while the surgery is being done. The surgeon will make a cut on your abdomen, or belly area. Your new kidney will be put into your body in this area, and the donor’s ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidney) will be sewn to your bladder. Usually your own kidneys will not be removed. The surgeon will close the skin cut and you will be taken to the recovery room. This operation takes 2 to 4 hours.
Recovering from the transplant surgery
- After the transplant surgery, you will recover in the hospital where you will be watched closely. You will usually spend several days recovering in the hospital.
- In some cases, you may start making your own urine right away. Sometimes, especially with deceased donor kidneys, this will take a bit of time. If your new kidney is not producing urine right away, you will need to stay on dialysis until this starts happening.
- Your transplant team will adjust your immunosuppressant medicines, and watch you closely for signs that your body is accepting the new kidney.
- Usually the transplant team will recommend that you get up and start slowly moving around one day after your surgery.
- Once you have recovered enough to safely go home, you will be released from the hospital and continue recovering at home.
Recovering at home
- Once you are at home, it is extremely important that you follow the directions given to you by the transplant team for taking care of your body after the surgery.
- You will need someone to drive you home from the hospital and stay with you at home for at least a few days after the surgery.
- Do not drive until your doctor has told you it is safe.
- Do not do anything that would put stress or pressure on the area where you had the surgery, such as heavy lifting.
- Watch your weight and blood pressure very closely.
- Call your doctor right away if you notice anything strange or different about your health.
On average it may take six weeks for the place of your surgery to fully heal.