When people think about getting an organ transplant, they focus on the obvious physical aspects: the illness, the operation, and the healing. They’re less likely to think about the emotional impact. But that can be profound too, both for you and the people around you.
Nearly all people who receive a transplant, feel elated and experience a sense of relief and hope after a surgery that goes well. But with time, that initial optimism may be tinged with other feelings. I personally worry about the rejection of my kidney and going back on dialysis. Or fixate on the uncertainty of my future.
It’s perfectly natural to have these feelings. But if these worries take over your life, you need to do something about it.
Guilt is a common reaction people have after a transplant. Patients often report thinking a lot about the donor and also feeling guilty about benefitting from a donor’s death if that is how you received your transplant. This feeling can be especially strong for people who became very ill while waiting and prayed or hoped for an organ to become available. After the procedure, some get the feeling that they had been wishing for someone else to die.
One way people come to terms with these feelings is by focusing on the fact that for both the donor family and the recipient the transplant is one way to get a sense of meaning from a death. That understanding can be a source of comfort.
Getting in touch with the donor family can help. To respect privacy, organ donation organizations won’t allow you to get in direct contact without the donor family’s agreement. But you can at least write a letter that your health care team can pass on to them.