The Transplant Evaluation Request
Maybe you have heard of someone going through a transplant or maybe you have contributed financially to help someone else. However, I imagine that you never thought you would be considering something like this for yourself (or a loved one). If this option is being presented, it means that there is a possibility that you could be a candidate.
What does it really mean to have a lung transplant? In basic terms, during surgery, one or both of your diseased lungs will be removed and healthy lungs from someone very recently deceased will be placed into your body1. This is major surgery, and because of the risks of rejection or complications from the surgery, a thorough series of tests will be performed to make sure that your body can handle it. Consideration for a transplant only comes after your lungs have become so bad that they are unable to perform the job of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide and no other treatment available2.
Your pulmonary physician is your first line of action when considering a lung transplant. He (she) will be the one to make the request and submit your medical records to the transplant center. In most cases, your doctor will not want to refer you too early because to become eligible for a lung transplant, you will need to go through extensive testing. This testing is not something you would want to endure more than once. Also, out of consideration for other patients needing a transplant right away, it is important that each evaluation offered is not taking away from someone that needs a transplant immediately.
After the transplant center receives the request and medical records, the transplant team will review your case and schedule your evaluation, or you will be told that you will not be considered. Many times your pulmonary physician will have a good idea of your case. He/she will not know for sure what the transplant center will do, but knowing your lungs and your medical history, your doctor should be able to tell you if there is a good chance. In our case, mom had other medical issues through the years, not lung related, that we were unsure of the impact on the committee's decision.
We experienced both sides of the initial consideration process. At first mom was denied evaluation. I remember being far away for work when I called home to find out that she would not be considered. It was a difficult conversation, full of emotions. Then a few weeks later, she received a letter in the mail stating that they had reviewed her case again and decided to allow her into the evaluation process. I am unsure how this happened, maybe it was standard procedure to review borderline cases twice. Whatever the reason, mom was given the opportunity to go through the evaluation process.
If you are thinking that you're just not sure you would ever want to go through a transplant, you are not alone. My mom had several major surgeries when I was a child, so she consistently told us that she did not want to consider a transplant. Then after my husband and I experienced a miscarriage, my mom asked her doctor, seemingly out of the blue, to begin the process for consideration. I remember almost crying as I heard the words come out of her mouth, and I remember the look on her doctor's face. We were so glad she was willing to just try. What I'm saying is, revisit your decision about whether or not you want to consider a transplant. Things change, for better and sometimes for worse. Don't be afraid to change your mind. It never hurts to ask.
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