How to Support Someone Who’s Had a Kidney Transplant

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in seven adults in the United States has chronic kidney disease. This means that 37 million people, most of whom are over the age of 50, are living with some degree of chronic kidney disease.

When a kidney is failing or has extremely low function, a kidney transplant is a life-saving procedure. The year 2021 was record-breaking for kidney transplants: 24,669 people received a kidney from a donor, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Amy Waterman, PhD, professor and director of patient engagement at Houston Methodist Hospital, says life after a kidney transplant is filled with opportunity.

“If you imagine that person is on dialysis every other day and exhausted and on a kidney diet, then a kidney transplant opens up a whole new world,” says Dr. Waterman.

The first year after a transplant is busy, says Dr. Bernard Victor Fischbach, nephrologist and director of kidney transplantation at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Immunosuppressants and other medications, such as blood pressure or diabetes medications, help a patient accept their new kidney. After the initial hospital stay, a transplant recipient comes into the clinic twice a week, then at a decreasing frequency, until they end up once a month. These visits are to monitor immunosuppressive medications and to accommodate the kidney in its new body. dr Fischbach says it’s the time with the highest risk of acute rejection.

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