Upon becoming a kidney transplant recipient, we must take lifelong medicine that suppresses our immune system to help prevent our body from rejecting the donated organ. At this same time, germs take on a whole new meaning in our lives. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are within arm’s reach. Masks are worn while traveling, such as when a passenger on an airplane. Our loved ones open doors for us to prevent us from touching possible infected surfaces. Our elbows and hips are used more often than our hands to protect ourselves from coming in contact with germs. If we know someone is ill, we try our best to stay far away. As soon as we enter our home, the first thing we do is wash our hands.

Face masksThe other week, I was sitting in the waiting room at my family doctor’s office. I was there for a regular check-up. It soon became apparent that a few others in the waiting room were not. A woman began to cough. It was thick and hoarsey. I cringed. She mentioned to another woman in the room that she was not feeling well. After another time or two of hearing her cough, I could not sit there any longer. I immediately got up from my chair and entered the door that led to the hallway of the patient exam rooms. As I stood in the hallway, a nurse passed by and I explained my health issues and expressed my concern about the people in the waiting room who were coughing. She told me to sit in the chair by the weigh scale and to not go back in the waiting room. The nurse gave me a mask to wear. She then went to the waiting room and asked those who were coughing and/or not feeling well to please put a mask on. I was very pleased with how the nurse handled this situation. I was glad that I removed myself from the sick environment and did all I could to protect my health, considering my surroundings. I learned a lesson. I will put a mask on prior to entering the doctor’s office and continue to speak up if there is someone that is ill. Hopefully, I not only protected my health, but also the health of others that day.

No germs

Noah does all he can to protect my health. We are a great team together. One evening we were out shopping in search of a dress shirt for him. I was browsing the store and found my way back to the men’s department as he was trying on shirts. As I entered the department, I could hear a little girl coughing. It was an awful cough. She was walking around touching everything and of course did not have her mouth covered when she coughed. When Noah came out to show me the shirt he had tried on, we gave each other a ‘look’ when the little girl continued to cough. I sat in a chair by the men’s dressing room and told myself that this is fine and she will leave soon. Well, she coughed again, and Noah immediately hollered from the dressing room, “Do you want my keys? Then you can go out to the car.” It obviously got to the both of us. I took his keys and sat in our car while he finished shopping. Even after 12 years post-transplant, we are both on high alert to protect my health as much as possible. Getting sick can be life threatening for a transplant recipient and we do not take that lightly. Our health is far too important to take any risks.

Medical gloves

However, there are times when it is harder to get away from germs. Like right now, as I type this blog. Noah is quite ill with what we think may be a stomach bug. He has a fever and has vomited. I am typing with blue medical gloves on. I just sprayed Lysol disinfecting spray throughout our entire home. Hand sanitizer and washing my hands is in full force. I am keeping my hands as far away from my face as possible. I have used Halo, which is an oral antiseptic to protect against airborne germs. Times like these are tough. Noah is an incredible caregiver. I want to do all I can to take care of him, however I have to keep my distance and can’t touch him. If it were anyone else, I would not be in the same room or house as him or her. This is one of those situations where we have to be as germ savvy as we can and hope for the best.

BubblesAs a transplant recipient, it would be really easy to become a germaphobe. I don’t let germs rule my world, but I do respect the power of them and how sick they can make us. I think the key is to be as proactive as possible, respect how detrimental germs can be to our well being, take the best care of yourself and avoid ill people when at all possible. One very important thing to acknowledge: we were given this second chance at life to get out in the world and enjoy life, not to live in a bubble.

How do you protect yourself from germs?


  1. Susan Adcock

    I’ve always been a hand washer, but after my transplant I took it to a whole new level. My hand sanitizer is always with me and/or hand wipes. Airplanes i find extremely germ filled. A flight attendant told me the plane is cleaned once a day at the end of the day. Trash is removed, but little else. So now I wipe down the area around me, and I’ve been shocked how black my wipe becomes. At the end of the flight, I go straight to the bathroom and wash my hands. Once home I immediately take a bath. Germs are all around, and you are correct we have a responsibility to care for our transplant and follow the instructions our doctors give us. And I owe it to my donor as well. I do not allow it to interrupt my life, but I am aware of my surroundings and stay far away from anyone that is sick. Restaurants can be a challenge too, I watched my waiter carry my water by holding the top of my glass. I politely asked if we could try again with the water and he was fine. People I find are usually very understanding.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Susan,

      It is so great to hear what a wonderful job you do in taking care of yourself. I love that you are not afraid to speak up. It is very important for us to do that. Thank you for sharing. Wishing you the best!

  2. Ellen

    I am happy to hear i am not the only germaphobe after transplant! My meds have caused my need for IgG infusions to fight off “bugs”. It is a challenge to stay well with careless people who are sick and “sharing” their illnesses. Hooray for the nurse in your story.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Ellen,

      Being a germophobe is a good thing because that means we care and do the best we can to keep our kidney happy and healthy. I too was pleased with the nurse’s response. Take care!

  3. Lanette

    -I use hand sanitizer on the handles of shopping carts, have been for the last 3 years and since then my family has avoided the flu!!! and who know what else.
    -I leave my toothbrush & toothpaste in a different bathroom than the kids’….
    -Otherwise I have my husband do the grocery shopping whenever possible otherwise I only go when there are very few people there and get in & out asap. People do not realize that they should stay home when sick ($!#!).
    -When I’m invited to a party/dinner and someone is sick, I leave immediately, rude or not – there are so few days that I feel “pretty good” that I no longer say to myself “it’ll probably be okay”..
    -Wearing a mask will not keep you from catching their germs, it’s the sick ones who must wear the masks.
    -I also wash all clothing at 60°C or more (darks may fade but who cares).
    Good luck to us all ♡

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Lanette,

      I am proud of how you take care of yourself and appreciate you sharing all of the great things that you do. I don’t have kids, but I think I will remove my toothbrush from the bathroom. Best of health to you!

  4. Donna Jo Davis

    Even though my transplant failed (not rejected) after only 18 months, I still follow the rules to avoid germs, except wearing a mask. I get very few colds, compared to the rest of my family, because I’m so careful about washing my hands and avoiding people who are ill. However, I’m also conscious when I’m ill and I don’t shake hand, hug, or kiss people I meet so I don’t pass along anything. I firmly believe in taking the flu and pneumonia vaccines, as long as I’m able.
    I do have to admit, though, that I’m way more of a germaphobe that I used to be. Let my husband, daughter, or a grandchild even come near the kitchen garbage can, and they’re washing their hands. lol The same with petting the dogs–no touching me until hands are washed. My vet even knows I’m immune-suppressed, and she instructs my husband when the dogs have diseases that could spread to humans. I so appreciate her thoughtfulness.
    I’ve been waiting six years for my second kidney. Here’s hoping the transplant happens!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Donna,
      Thank you very much for sharing tips on how you lead a healthy and germ conscious life-style. I commend you on your determination and diligence to take the best care of yourself as possible. Wishing you the best of health and sure hope your second gift of life will be coming real soon!


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