Monday, September 22, 2008

If you can read this, thank your immune system...

I had coffee yesterday with my coworker who had a kidney transplant. She looks amazing!!! Unbelievable that it's only been 5 weeks. Her impressive bounce back to wellness is largely due to her age (just 29). The match (from her brother) was so good, that if she takes care of it, she'll be able to get 25-30 years out of that kidney.

I got a brief lesson on how transplant patients' immune systems are tweaked to not reject their new organ. At this early stage, the doctors have her on anti's: anti-biotics, anti-fungals, anti-virals, to protect her while they are depressing her immune system with anti-rejection drugs. Then, once she's passed the magic 6 month mark, they'll be less concerned with rejection, and begin to tweak the mix of medications so that she has as much immune system as possible, yet won't reject the kidney.

And they have options, too. Apparently there are different meds that do the same thing and if a person gets side effects, there is often something else to try.

I was very impressed how it was obvious that transplants today have built on what's been done in the past. I know, I know, duh, but for example, they don't put the kidney where her old one was. Actually, where it is. They left it in. The new kidney is put a little to the side, and the surgeon goes in through the front.

I'm so happy she's OK. Unfortunately, her immunocompromised state makes it too risky for her to do lab work, so she'll do deskwork when she comes back. After that, she'll have to switch disciplines so she doesn't work with anything infectious to humans. Something like plant pathology. It's an awful bit of irony that we work at a facility that specifically studies infectious disease.

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Hi, sorry to make the humans do an extra step.