When you get your life-saving organ, you are at a greater risk of infection. You may have heard “transplant is trading one disease for another” and that is the truth in a nutshell. Does that mean if I get sick i will die? NO! The key to getting through these bouts of sickness is having a streamlined communication with your transplant coordinator. Again, I cannot express how important it is to establish a professional relationship with your nurse coordinator. He or she is your lifeline to getting you better and back to 100%.
There are some steps to lowering your risk of infection that I suggest you implement them as fast as you can.
- Wear a mask. Now when I started my transplant journey 10 years ago, I felt like if I wear a mask people will look at me and think I was sick. I wasn’t sick but I don’t know who may have an active infection that I may be able to catch. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now the entire world has learned about mask wearing and how it helps keep others safe. I hate wearing a mask so for those of you who feel like you’re going to defy the odds and take your chances, you’re gambling with your new lungs. Keep in mind your lungs are the only solid organ that is exposed to the environment. Think about that…you truly have no way to protect them unless you use some kind of filtration, a mask!
- Wash your hands! This one is common sense and if you don’t wash your hands after doing things where bacteria is present, you run the elevated risk of infection. Yes, when you’re that immunocompromised, it is that easy to get sick. This includes but not limited to washing hand after using the restroom, before you eat, before and after handling food, after petting an animal, and before handling meds. Always carry hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Don’t have direct contact with someone who is not well. This is another common sense tip. If you find yourself getting ready to go to a family BBQ and the host says to you, ‘hey just want you to know I woke up congested but I’m sure its just allergies” just stay away. They will understand why you have chosen to stay back because they were up front with you and want to keep you safe. In short, you have to be on high alert for coughing, sneezing, and just unwell people. Don’t assume it “just allergies”.
- Wounds that won’t heal. These are tricky because it comes down to discretion. As the patient you wonder well what does that have to do with my lungs. Infections don’t enter your body only through the respiratory system. If you find yourself seeing or bothered by something irregular on your skin, just call your coordinator. I personally have had scrapes, or so I thought, that have lingered and hurt and turned out to be skin cancer.
- Leave the gardening to someone else. You may be someone who loves flowers and growing their own crops. Well, I hate to tell you but its time to teach someone else your ways. When it comes to risk of infection, the soil, grass, leaves, trees, and all things earth can produce mold spores and can be a silent killer.
As I previously said, there are so many risks when living with a transplanted organ but its so worth it! Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!