Category Archives: recovery

Reflections on Recovering From a Heart Transplant


 

On August 21, 2007, I received a new heart at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.  I also received a new life, a new attitude and a new appreciation for my family and friends.

 

I’m not going to write about the difficulties I encountered but rather I will attempt to describe my enrichment by the process.  Here are some of my “awakenings” of the last eleven months.

 

  • A new appreciation for life and a new ability to “see” things I was oblivious to before my transplant.  Now I “see” nature and the life around us, I “see” children at play, puppies, and love.  Yes, you can “see” love but you have to look and comprehend.

 

  • I have found the real meaning of love and it is far deeper than words.  Love, is a look, a touch, a gesture a movement.  Love can be seen in people’s eyes, how they listen and the helpful actions they take.   Sometimes you can be aware of love even though the actions taken might be wrong.

 

  • The gift of life is the ultimate in giving.  While receiving the gift is relatively easy, making the decision to give is sometimes difficult, especially for families with dying loved ones who have healthy organs.  Yet thousands of people make that decision every year despite the enormous grief they are experiencing.  I hope my donor family knows how intensely grateful I am.  I hope they know that they not only saved my life, but also caused great happiness for me, my family and my friends.  Let us not forget the living donors.  Can there be a greater expression of love, concern and compassion than those who voluntarily give all or part of an organ?  I think not.

 

  • While I loved my family unconditionally before the transplant I love them more deeply now, than ever.  And – while it sounds selfish, I now understand the depth of their love for me and how what affects me has an equal effect on them.  Oh, how the phrase, “No man is an island …” applies.  We should all recognize that and we would be far better people.  My greatest blessing is my wife, Robin.  I simply cannot express my love for her.  I won the biggest lottery ever when I found her. 

 

  • My dear, dear friends.  An experience like the one I just had really lets you know who your friends are.  There are friendly acquaintances and there are true, loving friends.  While both are important to me, few of the people I know fall into the latter category.  One has been a friend since we were ten years old.  I finally know what the word means; I suspect he has always known. 

 

I have learned so much more than the five items listed here, but these are the personal lessons that stand out.  All in all, I have to believe I have come out of this experience as a better person and one whose “betterness” will continue to grow.  In many ways, I wish everyone could have a transplant, we might all be better for it.

 

Please read and comment on my World Wide Issues  blogs on http://blogsbybob.wordpress.com.   Also…visit my Facebook site, Organ Transplant Patients, Friends and You at  http://tinyurl.com/225cfh  OR — my Facebook home page  http://www.facebook.com/home.php

 

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M.A.G.I.C. Tips on Recovering from an Organ Transplant


Editor’s note. If you have read my other blogs then you know I had a heart transplant on August 21, 2007 at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. The following tips are from my personal experience and the guidance of the experts at Mayo.

M.A.G.I.C.
Bob’s NewHeart Tips for Transplant Patients

Manage your recovery

  • Exercise daily. Shopping is activity, walking at a good clip on a treadmill is exercise. Exercise and a good diet are essential to a successful recovery.
  • Keep a daily journal of the following:
    •  Exercise. Track type and duration. Try for 60 minutes a day.
    • Medication dosages, frequency, changes, stops, new meds.
    • Nutrition. Track foods and liquids according to the limits set by your physician. At a minimum you should be watching liquids, calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium intake based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
    • Vital signs. Purchase a quality blood pressure cuff at your favorite drug store and begin keeping a daily record of your weight, blood pressure and pulse.

Attitude. No matter what the challenge in your recovery a “can do” attitude is absolutely necessary. When you consider that you have just been given the gift of life a “Poor me” attitude makes absolutely no sense!  No matter what the challenge, and there will be many of them, you can do it!

  • You can and must watch your diet
  • You can and must exercise daily
  • You can and must take your meds on time and live a normal life

Gratitude. Appreciate the fact that the organ you received is a treasure. You have a responsibility to take good care of it. A family somewhere is grieving over the loss of the loved one who donated your organ, a loved one whose generosity and selflessness has allowed you to live.

  • Your caregiver has made a commitment to you, you must make a commitment to the caregiver.  He or she is deserving of all the cooperation and respect you can offer. Because you are recovering from a major surgery, you will make great demands on their time and patience. It is important for you to do as much for yourself as you can, without violating the restrictions placed upon you by your physician. Activity is good for you, even if it hurts.
  • Family and friends have your best interests at heart as well.  Show them you appreciate their concern and efforts.  One way to show gratitude is to follow the rules and live a great, long life.

Information. Because of the complexity of transplantation, you will have hundreds of questions.

  • No one is going to give you a packet that answers all of them. You must take it upon yourself to seek information on medications, insurance, nutrition and more.  Visit my Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative.
  • If you have access to a computer and can get on the Internet, you will find support groups, general information sites and medical information.  www.nutritiondata.com  for example, can help you track calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium content and more.  A group I just started on Facebook, Organ Transplant Initiative could also be helpful.
  • Most importantly, ask questions. Do not be intimidated by physicians or others who are guiding or directing your care. If you do not understand what they are saying, press them until you do. And, by all means, take notes.

Cooperation/consideration.

  • The medical experts guiding your care know what they are doing. Yes, you should question them and yes, you should ask for clarification but remember that everything they suggest is for your own good. If, for example, you are told to consume no more than 1850 calories a day, do it! When you don’t you are only hurting yourself. Who gets hurt if you eat too much, gain weight and put added strain on your new organ? It sure isn’t the physician or nurse or cardiac rehab expert.
  • Follow the advice given to you by rehab experts.  Transplant drugs can have a negative effect on other parts of your body including bones.  In rehab everything from proper breathing to stretching has a profound effect on your recovery.
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