Organ donation

Effects on family and friends

We interviewed recipients who’d had different kinds of transplants. Experiences vary from person to person and also depend on the kind of transplant involved. Most of the people we interviewed were very weak and ill before the transplant and had often been so for several years (see Life before the transplant). Waiting for an organ to become available was often a difficult time in which they’d needed a lot of support with normal daily activities. Many of the people we interviewed praised the support they’d received from their family during this challenging time, which affected everyone in the family in some way. At the time, no one had known when or whether an organ would become available. Some recipients felt that it was harder for the family than it was for them. Many praised the support they’d had from their husband or wife, who’d often had to manage most of the household chores. Several noted how roles had changed when they were ill and their spouse or partner had become their main carer too. It often put a strain on the marriage and several noted the importance of support and counselling for partners.
Some of the people we talked to recalled how their partner or spouse had often felt exhausted after doing everything at home, and then updating others on the recipient’s welfare. Several said that, as well as working, their spouse had to do the shopping, cooking, driving and childcare. Some recipients were too ill to spend quality time doing things with their children, and several felt they’d missed out on precious time with them.
Some of the people we interviewed said they’d grown closer as a family because of everything they’d been through. Helen said she’d become closer to her dad as her illness had led them to spend more time together. Several said that people in the family coped differently and some coped better than others. A few said that their elderly parents had found it difficult to see their own children so ill and this had sometimes put a strain on the relationship.
 
Two kidney recipients said they’d carried on working while they were having dialysis and tried to be as self-sufficient as they could.
Some people talked about the impact of their illness on friends, several saying that their illness had shown them which friends could cope with it and which couldn’t. Some friends had become closer, while others had drifted away.
Many of those we interviewed said that practical support was crucial during this time because there were so many things they’d been unable to do. This included help with shopping, lifts, cooking and other domestic chores, and sometimes help with personal care. Emotional support was also important and sometimes this came from other patients as well as family and friends.
Information about support groups can be found in: Resources section.

Last reviewed May 2016.

 
 

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