If a family member or loved one has had a liver transplant, they have gone through something painful, stressful and life-changing. It is also a big responsibility for family members to take care of a loved one who has had a liver transplant surgery. Although the patients usually get discharged in two weeks, the recovery process could easily take a few months. At this time, the person recovering also requires a lot of emotional support.
A liver transplant is a life-saving procedure where a diseased and failed liver is replaced with a good and healthy one from another body. People who have undergone liver transplants are usually already seriously ill and have no other treatment options except a transplant. A few are lucky to get a liver immediately, and many are on a waiting list. The patient can receive a part of a liver from a donor or a whole liver from a recently deceased donor. Unfortunately, not every patient who needs a healthy liver receives one immediately because of its shortage; the demand for a transplant is much higher than the supply of donors.
What do you need to know as a caregiver?
- After the liver transplant surgery, the patient will remain in the ICU for a few days, kept under intense care and supervision.
- Ventilators are given for breathing assistance.
- The stomach is inserted with tubes to give nutrients and fluids. To drain bodily fluids, catheters are used.
- Pain relievers and medicines are also given.
- After being in the ICU for a few days, patients are sent to the general ward, where they will be monitored and taken care of for about two weeks and then discharged.
- Every patient’s recovery time is different. Most patients take three to four months to recover.
To recover fully from a major and life-saving surgery such as a liver transplant surgery, it may take up to 12 months.
The things you should do as a caregiver
- Follow up visits
The doctor will want to see and check the patient a few times every week. The frequency of visits will reduce after a few weeks or months. These visits are basically to check the success rates of the liver post the transplant. You need to make sure that the transport to and fro the hospital is smooth and that the patient’s needs are taken care of.
- Schedule everything so that mistakes are avoided
Make sure that they eat on time and have their medicines on time. You can also maintain a record to know their daily activities. If your loved one is still at the hospital, make sure that relatives and friends do not overcrowd the room, which may stress out the patient.
- Make sure their food is healthy.
A lot of protein is needed after surgery. Make sure they eat more tofu, beans, yoghurt, eggs, fish and meat. Ensure they avoid eating fatty foods, processed foods, and unhealthy foods.
- Be a listener
Go check up on them often and listen to the problems they face during this challenging time. Keeping a record of their complaints/symptoms may also help the doctor during your weekly doctor visits.
- Monitor them
Check their blood pressure regularly and their frequency of bowel movements. Report to the doctor immediately if BP is high/ low or the colour of their stool is abnormal.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Do not forget to take care of your own physical and mental health!
Take steps to prevent infection.
The chances of infection for an individual who has undergone a liver transplant are usually very high. Patients are given immunosuppressants which make them more prone to infection. As a caregiver, you need to learn the symptoms of infection, as the patient may not be able to diagnose it by themselves and how to avoid an infection in the first place.
- Ask visitors to wash their hands thoroughly.
- The patient’s room needs to be cleaned regularly using disinfectants.
- Clean the surgical site thoroughly. The surgical site is usually where the infection occurs after the surgery.
- Take the patient to the hospital immediately if you suspect that they may have caught an infection.
- If you are a caretaker, you also need to be available at all times for your loved one as it is a critical period in their life.
If you are looking for a liver transplant in Chennai for yourself or someone you know, look no further than The Chennai Liver Foundation. We have the best doctors, and we are the leading liver transplant hospital in chennai