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Lung Transplant: Returning to Normal Activities

Now that I feel better, when can I return to my regular activities?

You can resume your previous activities as soon as you feel better, but remember that your recovery will take several months and you should increase your activity gradually.

A daily pulmonary rehabilitation program, prescribed by your physical therapist, will strengthen your lung and continue to improve your overall health as you recover at home.

You will not injure yourself or your new lung if you follow these general guidelines:

  • Do not lift anything over 5 pounds (including your suitcase when you leave the hospital) and avoid strenuous physical work for at least 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. It is important that you also not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds after 6 months from the date of your surgery.
  • Avoid driving for at least 6 weeks after surgery. Plan ahead so a friend or family member can help out during this time. When you are in a motor vehicle, always wear your seat belt.
  • Gradually increase your physical activities after your incision has healed. Exercise is encouraged. We recommend beginning with stretching exercises and walking to help you regain your strength. Pay attention to how you feel when exercising. Stop and rest when you feel tired or if you feel pain. (including your suitcase when you leave the hospital) and avoid strenuous physical work for at least 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. It is important that you also not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds after 6 months from the date of your surgery.Plan ahead so a friend or family member can help out during this time. When you are in a motor vehicle, always wear your seat belt after the incision has healed. Exercise is encouraged. We recommend beginning with stretching exercises and walking to help you regain your strength. Pay attention to how you feel when exercising. Stop and rest when you feel tired or if you feel pain.
  • As a general rule , rough contact sports should be avoided since they might cause injury to your transplanted lung. If you have doubts about any activity, please ask your doctor or transplant coordinator.
  • Keep your home and work environments smoke-free. Don't go near areas where there are fumes or smoke, and avoid areas where people are smoking.
  • Follow your doctor's guidelines regarding your diet, level of activity, and returning to work.
  • Call your doctor if you have a temperature over 100°F, have a cough that is different from other coughs you had before the transplant; are feeling overly tired or short of breath; are dizzy; or have any sores, blisters, new growths or lumps. (Check your neck, armpits, and groin. Women should also check their breasts for lumps.) Go to the emergency room if you have a cut that is deep or bleeds heavily.

See your family doctor for a complete physical every year after your transplant .

What to do if you have trouble sleeping ?

Many people complain of having trouble sleeping for some time after surgery. You might experience insomnia (an inability to sleep) because of discomfort related to healing, stress from personal concerns, or side effects from your medicines.

If you cannot sleep, try these tips:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up about the same time every day.
  • Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable. Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
  • Use your bedroom for sleeping only. Don't work or watch TV in your bedroom.
  • Avoid napping too much during the day. At the same time, remember to balance activity with rest during recovery.
  • If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Do NOT take sleeping pills. They are very harmful when taken with your other transplant medicines.
  • If you can't sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Don't stay in bed worrying about when you're going to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine, but don't exercise within 2 to 3 hours before bed time.

When will I be able to return to work?

Many lung transplant patients are able to return to work within a few months after surgery. However, various aspects of the recovery process can affect the timing of your return.

You will need to discuss returning to your job with your doctor and transplant coordinator. When the time approaches, a "return to work" letter will be provided. This will let your employer know when you may begin working and what limitations, if any, you might have at work.

How soon can I take a vacation?

You may travel as soon as you are feeling better, but always let your transplant coordinator know when you plan to go and provide a phone number where you can be reached.

By remembering these traveling tips, your vacation will be worry free:

  • Always take all of your medicines with you, and make sure you have enough medicines to last throughout your trip.
  • If you are traveling by plane, carry your medicines with you. Never check them with your luggage. You might need a letter from the Transplant Team that verifies all of your medicines especially if you are traveling internationally. Pack this letter with your medicines.
  • Always wear your Emergency Medical Identification.
  • Make sure you have the Cleveland Clinic Transplant Center's phone number.
  • Check to see if there is a medical laboratory or transplant center nearby where you can have your blood work completed. This lab will need to report your results to Cleveland Clinic's Transplant Center.
  • Be careful to avoid infection when traveling. In areas where the water might be unsafe, drink bottled water or other beverages. (Order beverages without ice.) Swim only in chlorinated pools.
  • Select food with care to avoid illness.

Sexual activity after transplantation

There are no restrictions on resuming sexual activity. To avoid straining yourself while recuperating, you might want to use a low-stress position.

We recommend that you use condoms to prevent infection. Report genital rashes, sores, unusual discharge, or yeast infections to your transplant coordinator.

Recommendations for female transplant patients

Even if your periods seem to have stopped, you should always use a safe and effective method of birth control after transplant surgery. We do not recommend birth control pills, because of the added risk of side effects.

Pregnancy is not recommended, especially within 1 year after transplant surgery. The medicines you take after surgery are harmful to a developing baby, and the stress of pregnancy on your body can be harmful to your health.

If you desire to have children after your transplant, there are other options such as adopting and serving as foster parents. Please discuss these options with your transplant coordinator or social worker.

Recommendations for male transplant patients

Male transplant patients might experience difficulty with erections after surgery. This might be caused by a reduction of blood flow to the penis, or it might be a result of the transplant medicines. In most cases, this situation can be corrected.

If impotence becomes a problem for you, please feel free to discuss any concerns with your doctor or transplant coordinator. Cleveland Clinic has specialists who are available to help you with these issues.

References

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/15/2011...#4558


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