Father and son holding hands in public park

Receiving a life-saving transplant is a big deal. If you have young children, it can seem especially overwhelming. It is important to help them understand what a transplant is and how it may change your life — and theirs.

If you are on the transplant waiting list, it’s important to create a plan as soon as possible so your family is prepared when the call comes. If you are receiving a living donor transplant, planning will be a little easier since you are able to schedule the transplant surgery. These guidelines can help you prepare your children for what will happen.

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Help them understand your situation

Maybe your kids have noticed that you’re not as energetic. Maybe they already know you’re sick and have visited you in the hospital. No matter the situation, explain what is going on.

The idea of a transplant can be difficult for young children to understand. So, let them know you are having an operation to get healthy and feel like yourself again. You know your children better than anyone, so talk to them in a way that’s appropriate for their ages.

Set expectations for after the surgery

Since you won’t be able to drive or lift anything heavy after the surgery, you will need a caregiver for yourself and your kids. Prepare your children for what to expect after the transplant. Some things you’ll want to share with them include:
• If they’ll have a new caregiver
• Their new schedule
• How long you will be in the hospital
• How much they will see you in the hospital
• What they may need to do to help (depending on age). This can include cooking, housekeeping, or other chores
• What your recovery will be like once you’re home

Be sure to take care of yourself

Take it easy so you can recover to the best of your ability and get back to running around with your kids as soon as possible. That means letting people help you throughout this process. Friends and family are usually more than willing to help.

Kids can be surprisingly perceptive. They might notice you’re not feeling well or if you’re overdoing it. Staying positive and recognizing your limitations can help them stay optimistic during your recovery.

Preparing for a living donor transplant

If you are receiving a living donor transplant, there are special considerations when preparing your child.

If the donor is someone they know — and especially if it is their other parent — they’ll probably be even more uncertain. You and your donor together should explain to the children what will happen. Knowing that your living donor is doing something to make you feel better will help them cope.

If the donor is someone they don’t know, introduce them and explain the process. If you don’t know the donor, explain that someone you don’t know is willing to go through surgery just so that you can get better.

Talking to your children about complicated medical procedures can be difficult. By sharing what they need to know in a way they can understand, you’ll be helping them get through the process.

If you have questions or concerns about any part of your transplant journey, reach out to your transplant coordinator.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.