Transplant and Pulmonary Hypertension
Emotional Issues After Transplant
Receiving a new organ is a wonderful gift, but the process of receiving and recovering from a transplant brings with it its own emotional struggle. After the transplant, many factors may create emotional issues. Above all, transplant recipients should remember that everyone recovers from surgery at a different pace, and that it is completely normal to have good days and bad days. Furthermore, your transplant team will not simply disappear once you have been sewn up. They will be with you through the process of recovery and as you go on to live your life with your new organ.
The following are some common sources of emotional distress and tips for dealing with them:
- Pain management. Lack of pain control can lead to anxiety, agitation or insomnia. Because transplant patients often experience some initial cognitive impairment as a result of their post-operative medications, it may be difficult for them to inform nursing staff about their need for pain relief. Also, some patients, caregivers or family members may be fearful of addiction to pain medicines and may try to limit pain therapy. However, addiction to pain medication does not usually develop in patients who take these medications when they are experiencing pain.
- Mechanical ventilation. Use of a breathing tube can be very troubling for patients. Some patients do not like the total dependence upon a machine to breathe, and they may even fight against the ventilator. In addition, the inability to communicate can be stressful. It is helpful to learn about the ventilator and know what to expect so you can be prepared. Also, while using the ventilator you can communicate with pen and paper or by mouthing your words.
- The hospital environment. Simply being in the ICU can cause emotional distress for some people. The constant flow of strangers, unfamiliar surroundings, strange noises and high-tech equipment can be unnerving. Again, communicating your fears can help you to feel more in control and less isolated.
- Medications and their side effects. Some of the drugs used for transplant recipients can have emotional effects. Immunosuppressants may cause restlessness, irritability or moodiness, among other problems. These side effects are treatable, but to get help, you must tell your doctors what you are feeling.
- Complications. A transplant patient is susceptible to infections, episodes of organ rejection and other complications that can cause anxiety, depression, or emotional distress. Know that these complications are expected and the staff is used to treating them, and the problems will usually diminish with time. Some patients find it helpful to receive visits from other transplant recipients who have been through the process. These people can provide a great sense of hope and reassurance during your recovery.
- Mental adjustment. Some patients find it difficult to accept the new organ as part of them. They still see the organ as a foreign object. Some remain in denial about the new organ. This may be expressed by a lack of interest or curiosity about the organ donor. Some have feelings of guilt that they survived and someone else died.
Learn about Long-Term Emotional Issues After Transplant
Language Based on Treatment Fact Sheet Issued by PHA's Scientific Leadership Council
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Last reviewed in 2009