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Monday, August 1, 2011

Top 10 Tips For Living Kidney Donors

It is a holiday today (for most of Canada anyway) so I thought I'd go simple and do a "Top 10"

1) Be as fit as you can pre-surgery. This sounds like a no brainer but there are a lot of people in okay shape who don't really exercise or do a variety of exercising. I found yoga really helpful before to increase flexibility-I know it was a big influence on how quickly my range of motion returned.

2) Pets. If you have dogs, arrange for someone to walk them while you are in the hospital and for the first couple of weeks you are home because your partner/immediate family will be wanting to spend time with you and not worry about Rover. If you are a cat person and live alone (I am not assuming all cat people live alone-ha) put their food supply at waist level before you go to the hospital so that when you get out and are back home you can more easily feed them

3) Prior to surgery, buy some "comfort foods" that you know you crave when you aren't feeling great. That way you will have them there when you get home. Whether it is ice cream or cheese and crackers, have it on hand. You may not end up eating it but I found my appetite was kind of off the first few weeks and if I wanted something, I really wanted it. Be careful to eat things in small doses though as your digestive system will be a bit off and you may be sensitive to things like salt. Don't worry - it gets better.

4) Buy spare slippers for the hospital as you will probably want to throw them out after. Hospital floors can be kind of gross in ways you will never see.

5) Buy PJs and/or track pants that are 1-2 sizes bigger than you normally wear. Your stomach will be bloated after and even once that starts to go down, the looser the pants the better around the incision area.

6) If you are a "plugged in" kind of person, bring your smart phone and of course a charger. Most hospitals allow them now (even if their materials say otherwise), as long as you aren't using them in an area where it isn't permitted. If you do want to take a phone call or play a game or something with sound, be mindful of who can hear and turn the volume down. If I hadn't been able to use mine to stay in touch with friends and family, I would have felt a lot worse I think.

7) Ask questions. Ask your doctors and nurse questions but also ask the internet. Read about other donor programs. Find other donors via sites like Living Donors Online  Every hospital does things differently and every patient heals differently. If you see something was done differently elsewhere or the recommended you do somethign different in your recovery feel free to ask why. A lot of programs, especially in Canada are new, so they may be open to doing something differently. At the very least in reading about other experiences, you'll have a wider knowledge of all the what ifs and ways things can go. And you will be more prepared.

8) Keep a journal. Or a blog...something. You will wish you could remember all the little details and trust me-some you won't without writing down some notes. You'll be amazed to look back and see what you were thinking, what you went through and how you got through the good and bad times

9) Learn to ask for help. More importantly learn to ask for help and not feel guilty about it. Every donor I have met, online or otherwise, has being a feisty, strong willed, determined, independent type. These people often are the worst at relying on other people (i might know a thing or two about that). The more you get over not wanting to inconvenience people, the better off you'll be. Easier said than done. But try.

10) Listen to your body. Know it well before surgery so you will understand it better after. After surgery pay close attention to every pain, gurgle and twang and what helps with your comfort. Rest when you need to. Eat when you are hungry. And if you don't know what it is trying to say and you are feeling off-drink two glasses of water and go for a little walk inside or out as that seems to settle everything down.

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