Tina got her transplant just over a year ago. After recovery, Tina wasted no time getting back into life. She and her partner have been living their dream of a twelve-month Australian road trip. Whilst travelling Tina has also been completing her online degree in Education and running her business, dispatching stock and responding to customers from the outback.
At what age did you get your transplant?
I was 30 when I got my transplant and my wait was relatively short- only 5 months.
What sorts of things did they assess you for to get onto the waitlist for transplant?
- Compliance to existing treatment and medications
- Lifestyle factors i.e. smoking, drugs, drinking
- The capacity of my other organs; were they strong enough for transplant treatment?
- The transplant team do regular blood tests to check for any possible diseases; cancer, STDs, STIs, to make sure they have the full picture of my overall health
- Dental check
- Pap smear
- Bone scan
- Skin check for cancers
- Psychology evaluation to ensure that I was mentally prepared
- Liver and kidney scan
- Have all vaccinations
What was the decision making process around getting a transplant?
The transplant subject had been spoken of occasionally with my doctors over the years. Once I started to deteriorate to a point where I was struggling to maintain a good quality of life due to frequent hospital admissions, Dr Mulrennan, Sue Morey and myself had THE talk. We discussed options regarding new treatments and trials that I could participate in, to no avail. I was simply too weak to even qualify for any trials. We agreed to look at the transplant prospect and a referral was made for me to see the team at Royal Perth hospital (RPH). The journey had begun.
What happened when you were on the list for transplant? i.e. did you have to work hard to meet requirements e.g. go to physio, attend appointments etc.?
To get on the list is a marathon event, once you are there life becomes much simpler as most of the tests have already been completed. Once listed, it was a matter of attending weekly physio appointments, meeting with the surgeon and seeing the transplant team once a month for check-up and blood tests.
What sorts of changes happened to your body after transplant?
Quite a few that I was not expecting:
- My face was no longer bright red due to lack of oxygen
- I no longer had blue lips
- Initially I was very puffy, like a Michelin man, due to the steroids but it went away after about a month or two
- My skin started to peel, like I had bad sunburn
- I have a constant tremor due to the Tacrolimus (anti-rejection medication). This has improved over time however gets worse if I’m anxious
- My hair started falling out, partly due to Tacrolimus and stress (I had a few complications plus an extreme needle phobia)
- I learnt how to cope with some really difficult situations. I set aside 12 months for any complications to occur, that thought process got me through. Luckily, 12 months on all seems to have settled down
Some people report weird dreams or other strange experiences e.g. suddenly liking beer. Did anything like this happen to you?
I’m not sure if it’s relevant, but I’ve developed a love of the gym and fitness. To be able to complete a class with the healthy folk is an incredible feeling. I love the fact that I have little muscles now instead of just being skin and bone like I once was.
There is some evidence that people experience some trauma after coming out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) post-transplant, do you remember anything about this?
No I didn’t. My only trauma was that I was only allowed to eat ice!
Where are you now in terms of your health and outlook on life?
I’m very happy. Quality of life has improved dramatically. For me, life began at 30. Health has been wonderful for the past 6 months; I maintain regular contact with the transplant team which helps to alleviate any concerns. Keeping healthy is definitely a team effort.
Currently, 13 months post-transplant, I’m travelling around Australia which will take approximately 12 months. Prior to transplant, this would never have been possible. Loving life!
What are your future plans?
At the end of the year, I will be graduating university after completing my Bachelor of Education. Next year I plan to return to work full time and start our surrogacy journey to have a family. I’m sure this will be followed my more travelling and hopefully building a new house! It’s a wonderful feeling being able to make plans now. That was once a cruel thought.
What words of wisdom can you offer other people considering transplant?
The transplant process can be tough, but the outcome and the life you have afterwards is better than you can possibly imagine. It really is the most incredible gift of life.
Surround yourself with strong people – you will need to lean on friends and family more than ever as you make your journey through the process.
Start setting goals NOW… It helps to have a visual motivator!
I hope this helps.