Caring for a Child after a Liver Transplant

March 23, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Finding out your child needs an organ transplant can make you feel overwhelmed, anxious, and helpless. But, from the moment a donor has been found through surgery, things may seem to happen too fast to stop and really think about them. It’s once you’re ready to go home that this new reality sinks in. What can you do to best care for your child after the transplant? How can you ensure they are comfortable? And, what are the warning signs that your child’s body may be rejecting the new liver?

5 Home Care Tips for Taking Care of a Child After a Liver Transplant

Recovery from a liver transplant will vary from child to child. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay close attention to your doctor’s instructions pertaining exclusively to your own child. However, there are certain things you can do at home to make the process go smoother. These include:

1. Learn About the Medications

After surgery, your child will need immunosuppressants to lower the risk of transplant rejection. You will be given a supply of the medications, as well as dosage instructions, and phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. Become as familiar as possible with this information. Share it with all caregivers and keep the phone numbers handy. Your child will need to take these medications for the rest of their life. So, as they grow older, teach them how often to take them.

2. Spot Clean the Site of the Incision

Skip showers and baths and opt for sponge baths while the wound heals. Gently wash the area with soap and water, but don’t scrub. Let it air dry or pat it dry with a clean towel before reapplying the dressing. Inspect it every day to see if there are any signs of infection — such as redness, excessive bleeding, an unpleasant odor, or pus.

3. Be Mindful of Nutrition

If your child doesn’t have much appetite soon after surgery, give them meal replacement shakes. Your child will also likely be on prednisone, which causes fluid retention — so decrease salt intake to prevent high blood pressure. Also, never eat raw foods of animal origin (such as sushi, beef tartare, rare meats, or oysters). These may contain a high number of bacteria called vibrio vulnificus — which can be fatal. By the same token, avoid foods with raw eggs (such as cookie dough or Caesar’s salad). Cooking food thoroughly destroys potentially harmful organisms.

4. Be Careful with Exercise

Once your child heals from surgery, they will be able to return to exercise. However, contact sports — such as football, rugby, or wrestling — could cause injury. Talk to your child’s doctor about continuing with such sports. If your child is a swimmer, wait about three months before getting back in the pool. Your child will also be given an exercise program that they can do with a physical therapist. These exercises are designed to prevent muscle stiffness.

5. Restrict Contact with Visitors

Don’t allow people who may be sick to come near your child. Since it’s sometimes impossible to tell whether someone has been infected with a cold or virus, limit the number of visitors to those who are essential for caregiving — and frequently wash your hands and/or use antimicrobial gel, especially during cold and flu season.

Warning Signs of Complications After a Liver Transplant

If rejection were to occur, it’d be more likely to happen within the first year after the transplant. About 40% of children experience some signs of rejection soon after their surgery. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean your child will need another transplant. Sometimes, medication dosages can be adjusted for the body to stop attacking the new liver. When monitoring your child, pay attention to any of these warning signs:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Jaundice (skin and eyes look yellow)
  • Changes in urine and/or bowel movements
  • Fast heartbeat

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child who has had a liver transplant. Homecare providers offer the support you or your loved one needs.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.