There is no definite answer to this question. If there is a matching and healthy living donor, your child may be able to get a transplant in a few weeks or months. If no living related donor is available, it may take months or years on the waiting list before a suitable donor organ is available. During this time, your child will receive close follow-up care with his or her health care providers and the transplant team. Many support groups are also available to help you during this waiting time.
How are we notified when a kidney is available?
Each transplant team has their own specific guidelines for waiting on the transplant list and being notified when a donor organ is available. In most cases, you will receive a phone call that an organ is available. You will be told to come to the hospital immediately so your child can be prepared for the transplant.
What is involved in kidney transplant surgery?
Once an organ becomes available to your child, you and your child will be immediately called to the hospital. This call can occur at any time. So you should always be prepared to go to the hospital, if needed. Once at the hospital, your child will have final blood work and tests to confirm the organ is a match.
Your child will then go to the operating room. The transplant surgery may take several hours. But this will vary greatly depending on each individual case. During the surgery, a member of the transplant team will keep you informed on how the surgery is going.
What postoperative care occurs for kidney transplants?
After the surgery, your child will go to the intensive care unit (ICU) to be watched closely. The length of time your child will spend in the ICU will vary. It will be based on your child's unique condition. After your child is stable, he or she will be sent to the special unit in the hospital that cares for kidney transplant patients. Your child will continue to be watched closely. You will be educated on all aspects of caring for your child during this time. This will include information about medicines, activity, follow-up, diet and any other specific instructions from your child's transplant team.
What is rejection?
Rejection is the body’s normal reaction to foreign tissue. When a new kidney is placed in a person's body, the body sees the transplanted organ as a threat and tries to attack it. The immune system makes antibodies to try to kill the new organ. To help the new kidney survive in your child’s body, he or she must take antirejection medicines (immunosuppressants). These medicines weaken the immune system’s response. Your child must take these medicines for the rest of his or her life.
What are the symptoms of rejection?
Each child may experience symptoms of rejection differently. Symptoms may include:
- Soreness over the kidney
- Raised blood creatinine level
- High blood pressure
Your transplant team will tell you who to call right away if any of these symptoms occur.
What is done to prevent rejection?
Your child must take antirejection medicines for the rest of his or her life. Each child may react differently to medicines, and each transplant team has preferences for different medicines. Some of the antirejection medicines most commonly used include the following:
- Mycophenolate mofetil
- Lymphocyte immune globulin
New antirejection medicines are always being approved. Your child’s health care provider will create a medicine treatment plan that is right for your child. The doses of these medicines may change frequently as your child's response to them changes. Antirejection medicines affect the immune system. So, children who receive a transplant will be at higher risk for infections. A balance must be maintained between preventing rejection and making your child very vulnerable to infection. Your child will have blood tests done regularly. These will measure the amount of medicine in your child’s body and make sure your child does not get too much or too little of the medicines. White blood cells are also an important indicator of how much medicine your child needs.
What about infection?
This risk of infection is especially great in the first few months after the transplant. That’s because higher doses of antirejection medicines are given during this time. Your child will most likely need to take medicines to prevent other infections from occurring. Some of the infections your child will be especially vulnerable to include oral yeast infection (thrush), herpes and respiratory viruses.