For the first few weeks after surgery your chest will feel bruised. You will feel some pain when coughing or moving. As both coughing and moving are important parts of your recovery, you will be offered regular painkilling medication during this time. You will be given a small pillow to hold against your chest with both arms when moving. Follow instructions about how to move safely. If you feel clicking in your chest, you should report this to the nurse or doctor.
Travelling and taking holidays are some of the many bonuses of having a transplant. Once your transplant physician has told you that your condition has stabilized and you do not need frequent blood work, you can start planning. Before planning a trip, check with your doctor first. The clinic will advise you if your travel location is safe. The clinic will give you a travel letter listing your current medications. Carry twice the amount of antirejection drugs that you will need. Keep half with you at all times and put the other half in your luggage. That way, even if your luggage or handbag is stolen or lost, you will have enough medications to get you through the trip.
Immunizations – Check with your local community health agency to see if you will need any immunizations for the places you intend to visit. You must then review them with the transplant clinic before receiving any immunizations.
Driving – Check with your doctor before you start driving again. Generally, you will be able to drive once your incision is healed—usually about 6 – 8 weeks after your transplant. Remember that driving too soon after your transplant may put others at risk. Your vision, hearing, reflexes, strength and judgment could be impaired. Check with the transplant doctor first. Wearing a seat belt over your incision may bother you initially. Pad the area with a small blanket or pillow.
It is said sex takes about as much energy as climbing two flights of stairs. The main thing to remember is that for six weeks after the transplant, you should avoid putting too much strain on your incision.
Although sexual relations can be embarrassing to discuss, many healthy people go to counselors to help deal with issues of intimacy. If you have any questions about sexual activity, or questions about family planning, discuss these with your doctor, the social worker, psychologist or clinic nurse.
If you are planning to start a family after your transplant it is important to keep in close communication with the transplant doctors. Some of the drugs that you take after your transplant may cause birth defects. Also a pregnancy too early may place you at risk if you are a woman. It is important that you use contraception until you, your partner and the transplant doctor have discussed this in detail.
Impotence is a common problem for men both before and after transplantation. There are a number of treatments available to manage impotence. Discuss these with the transplant doctor.
Diabetes after Transplant
Some transplant patients develop diabetes after transplant. This is a side effect of some of the anti-rejection drugs. If you are prone to diabetes, you will be more likely to have it afterwards. It may be temporary or permanent. You doctor and dietitian will discuss the issue at length in case you develop sings of diabetes, and prescribe a diet and medication.
Maintaining Calcium and Bone Health
Long term use of some medications may cause thinning of the bones or Osteoporosis. It is important that you get enough vitamin D and calcium daily. Talk to your Dietitian about the type and amount of Vitamin D you need.
You will most probably be placed on a calcium supplement for at least the first 3 months after your heart transplant to ensure you meet your calcium requirements. Follow up with your dietitian for further medication that may be necessary.
Going Back To Work
At around 3 months after your transplant, depending on your progress. This should be discussed with the transplant doctor. As a general rule, we encourage people to resume a normal life as soon as they are well enough.