With you through every step of the way

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What to expect

At the Spectrum Health Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program, we provide all the information and care you need to handle the physical, emotional and financial issues involved in transplantation. We are here for you before, during and after the transplant process, offering you guidance every step of the way.

Transplant care journey

Evaluation
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During evaluation process you will undergo multiple tests and procedures to ensure a transplant will be a benefit to your health.

While on a waitlist
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While you are waiting for transplant you will continue to have frequent clinic visits and communication with the transplant team. We encourage pulmonary and cardiac rehab programs while on the waitlist to prepare for life after transplant.

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Transplant surgery
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Two healthcare providers performing surgery

During the transplant event many team members are involved from traveling to get the organ, delivering it to Spectrum Health and assisting in the operating room. A member of the operation room and transplant teams keep your family closely informed during the surgery.

Life after transplant
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After transplant surgery you will continue to have a lifelong relationship with our team. Regular clinic visits, labs and other testing will be necessary to ensure your new organ continues to function properly.

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Transplant clinic
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The transplant clinic and team will be a regular part of your life. The clinic offers a variety of services to help patients stay out of the hospital.

Meet your care team

You

You're a key member of the team, working with us to take care of your new organ.

Care Giver

I'm a family member or friend who supports you as you recover from surgery.

Transplant Physician

I manage the disease process and also manage the transplanted organ after surgery.

Transplant Surgeon

I perform your transplant surgery.

You

You're a key member of the team, working with us to take care of your new organ.

Care Giver

I'm a family member or friend who supports you as you recover from surgery.

Transplant Physician

I manage the disease process and also manage the transplanted organ after surgery.

Transplant Surgeon

I perform your transplant surgery.

Transplant Coordinator

I educate about evaluation and transplant and coordinate appointments and tests.

Social Worker

I help develop plans to address any needs or concerns prior to transplant.

Pharmacist

I provide education on medications, side effects, complications and medication safety.

Dietitian

I educate patients and families on nutrition needs after transplant.

Financial Counselor

I help patients and families understand the complex financial details associated with transplant.

Palliative Care

I help provide relief from troubling conditions and improve quality of life at any stage of the disease process.

Psychologist

I provide support and guidance, help patients make decisions and clarify feelings to determine next steps.

Hospitality

Renucci hospitality house

The Renucci Hospitality House provides affordable, homelike accommodations for families whose loved ones are hospitalized at Spectrum Health Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. This essential service supports Spectrum Health’s mission to improve the health of the communities we serve.

The transplant process

Transplant cost
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Transplant is a lifelong financial commitment. It is possible there will be costs to you that are not covered by insurance. These costs may include: 

  • Insurance deductibles and medication co-pays 
  • Out-of-pocket expenses such as:
    • Transportation
    • Housing and in-home support
Waitlist
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If you are chosen for transplant, you will be placed on a waitlist. Your place on the waitlist is determined by how sick you are. 

  • Heart Transplant: Based on the medical support you need while waiting for your heart, you will be assigned a specific status category (Status 1-7). Your waitlist status can change as the treatment you need changes. The waitlist is managed by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS coordinates the nation’s transplant system and assigns organs to those on the waitlist as they become available. Learn more about the heart transplant waitlist at the UNOS Transplant Living website
  • Lung Transplant: Your place on the waitlist is determined by your Lung Allocation Score (LAS), blood type, and size. Your LAS is based on lab and test results, your diagnosis, and how much medical support you need. The LAS can be from 0 to 100. The higher the LAS, the higher your priority will be on the waitlist. Your waitlist status can change as the treatment you need changes. The waitlist is managed by the UNOS . UNOS coordinates the nation’s transplant system and assigns organs to those on the waitlist as they become available. Learn more about LAS and the lung transplant waitlist at the UNOS website.
The call
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Organs for heart and lung transplant come from people who have died (donors) who did not have major health problems. The donor’s cause of death is usually an accident or sudden illness. When a donor organ is available for you, the transplant coordinator will call you to come to the hospital. You will always have the option to say you do not want the transplant. If the surgeon later finds out the organ is not usable, or the donor is not a good match for you, the transplant will be canceled. If you are well enough, you may be sent home to wait for another donor organ.

What to expect after transplant
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After your 6-to-12-hour transplant surgery, you will be cared for by a specialized transplant team. How long you are in the hospital depends on how quickly you recover from your surgery, but typically you will stay in the hospital for three to four weeks after your transplant. After you leave the hospital you will still be recovering and will have some restrictions on your daily activities until you are fully healed and cleared by the transplant team. 

A caregiver is someone who helps you with your medications, drives you to clinic appointments and supports you as you recover from surgery. A caregiver is usually a family member or can be a close friend. After transplant, it is expected that you will have a caregiver with you for the first several weeks after coming home from the hospital. If you live more than two hours away from our transplant center, it is expected that you stay in the local area for up to three months following your transplant. 

The transplant team will follow your progress and monitor you on a long-term basis. You must come to follow-up appointments and have frequent lab tests and studies done regularly. These tests are to check on how well the transplant is working and to monitor for rejection.

Rejection and infection
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Rejection occurs when your immune system discovers your new organ and tries to attack it. After your transplant, you will take medicine to suppress your immune system to prevent rejection for the rest of your life. In addition to frequent lab testing, you will have biopsies done regularly to look for rejection in your new organ. You will take medicine to suppress your immune system for the rest of your life after transplant. 

The medicine that prevents rejection also makes it easier for you to get an infection. Because your body will not be able to fight bacteria and viruses as well as it did before your transplant, infections can last longer and be more severe. You can do things to make it less likely that you will get an infection after transplant, such as: 

  • Wash your hands frequently 
  • Avoid contact with others who may be sick 
  • Get your flu shot

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