One of the pre-requisites to compete at the World Transplant Games is to prove you are fit and healthy enough. Hundreds of transplantees in one place… the organisers need to try and protect themselves a little!
Medical forms need to be signed by an organ transplant specialist, and competitors tend to tie this in with a regular visit to their transplant clinic. For me, this means a trip to the Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Clinic visits are an essential part of a transplantee’s after care. Even though my transplant was in Portugal, I was air-ambulanced back to Birmingham where I would continue to be looked after by the medical staff at the liver clinic there.
For the first few months after your transplant you are required to attend quite frequently. Considering I lived over 100 miles from Birmingham Queen Elizabeth, this wasn’t the easiest (or cheapest!) trip, but they say you can’t put a price on health!
The first few visits are spent with liver surgeons, and a transplant coordinator is on call 24 hours a day, but as the six month, and then the year post-transplant mark comes and goes, the appointments become less frequent, and the surgeons make way for liver consultants to take over your care.
I now tend to get the train to hospital. From Newport to the hospital, it’s an hour and 40, and just over £50 return.
I’ve got my appointment routine down to being pretty slick now:
- Walk into Birmingham QE’s large atrium area, trying to avoid picking up a sugar-filled ice smoothie from Costa
- Check in at my Outpatient’s area
- Take a seat, before being called into the Liver Outpatient’s wait area
- Get called into the nurse’s station to have weight and blood pressure monitored
- Wait…and wait….and wait to see the doctor (the shortest time has been ten minutes, but last time my consultant was flying solo, and I was sat for over an hour)
- Go and chat to the doctor, usually referring to my most recent blood test results. Luckily, as I haven’t had any issues with my new organ, these discussions have only ever been positive, and tend to be quite short. On my last visit, I also needed to get my medical forms signed, but I had filled these all in pre-visit, so it was still a pretty short visit. Receive a bunch of blood forms.
- Take a ticket, and wait for the phlebotomist to call you in. Hand over the blood forms, and offer up an arm. (I must have had over 200 blood tests/injections/infusions in my life, but I STILL hate needles)
- Pass by pharmacy on your way out to pick up another six months worth of tacrolimus (the drug that stops my body from rejecting its new organ).
- And that’s it! Head on back to the station, and repeat in six months time. (Birmingham utilises a fantastic online system called MyHealth, which allows you to log in and view all your blood tests that take place at Birmingham QE, as well as having an online record of any letters the doctors sent out. I find it really helps me understand what’s going on with my blood and my health, and there’s no need to ring up and pester receptionists for blood results – it’s my blood after all!)