The world is shaken up with COVID-19 and healthcare workers are working round the clock. While the healthy ones are affected and can recover, the ones who have preexisting conditions or are critical are worse hit. If your immune system is compromised, you need to be extra careful to avoid any kind of exposure to the Coronavirus. And this is more common in patients who have had an organ transplant. While we do not have any studies that claim COVID-19 could be more severe in transplant patients, there are risks of it infecting anybody; therefore, it is better to take precautions.

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I understand that if you’ve recently had a transplant, or scheduled for one very soon, you must have a lot of questions and doubts about the risks that COVID-19 may cause you. Here are some frequently asked questions and we’ve tried to answer them. If you have more doubts or are facing any kind of discomfort, it’s suggested that you consult your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Should I Continue My Medications?

Continue to take all of your medications on time, as prescribed, unless and until you are instructed otherwise by your doctor. Make sure you have an extra supply of your medications available to avoid any shortage during the lockdown. Keep in touch with your doctor, inform them if you feel any kind of discomfort due to your medications or other reasons.

Should I Delay My Transplant?

If you are in critical need of a transplant, it should not be delayed. However, the doctors will have to make sure that your potential donor doesn’t have any risk factors suggestive of the coronavirus or any other infection. If they, by any chance, show even the slightest risk, the doctors may not use that donor, in such cases, the transplant may have to be rescheduled until you find a new healthy donor.

Are There Any Travel Restrictions For Transplant Recipients?

The coronavirus was labeled a pandemic by the WHO on 11th March 2020, which means it has spread across and has affected most parts of the world. Traveling in times like these is highly risky. You may get infected and spread it to a number of other people around you, without knowing it. It can be a big risk. Therefore, try and restrict your travel, especially to places that are highly infected.

What Should I Do If A Family Member/Co-worker Is Diagnosed With COVID-19?

If you are a transplant recipient and a close contact, like a family member or a colleague, is diagnosed with COVID-19, you must avoid any further contact with him/her. You should immediately inform your doctor about this and check closely for any symptoms. Report to your doctor if you feel any kind of discomfort.

Is It Safe To Visit The Hospital For Appointments?

The risk of being infected by the virus in hospitals in India is quite low as of now. But taking the risk unnecessarily is not a wise thing to do. Avoid going to the hospital unless it is really important. Try calling your doctors, or having virtual appointments if possible.

Could I Get COVID-19 From My Donor If My Transplant Is Scheduled Now?

The risk is low but not nil. Doctors are trying their best to check for symptoms and any kind of risk factors in the donors to avoid potential complications. Living donors who have been exposed to the virus are generally being asked to postpone the donation by 14-28 days.

What Should I Do To Avoid The Risks Of Being Infected?

Practice all the precautionary measures given by the government and the WHO - like, wash and sanitize your hands frequently, cover your face while coughing and sneezing, do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth, avoid close contact with sick people, practice social distancing, stay at home, try working from home and avoid traveling for now.

We, as citizens of the planet have been faced with an enemy that is invisible, moves silently, lurks everywhere and spares no one. We, in the research and medical community have very few answers as of yet on the disease, its short and long term consequences, effective therapies and vaccines. Practicing social distancing, personal hygiene and respect for government ordinances, seem to have worked all across the world in curtailing both the spread and rapacious nature of this virus. Let us do our bit and save the planet for future generations by following these simple and safe advisories.

- Dr. Sandeep Attawar is the Program Director & Chair of Heart and Lung Transplant Program, Gleneagles Global Health City