Ascension Saint Thomas is celebrating kidney transplant month by announcing the launch of a first-of-its-kind kidney transplant wellness program. “While physical rehabilitation and wellness programs are standard care for organ recipients such as heart and lung, there has not been a similar program for kidney transplants,” said Karen Dyer, exercise physiologist at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West Wellness Center.
With the help of the Ascension Saint Thomas Foundation, the program began in September 2022 to educate kidney transplant patients on ways to stay healthy after their surgeries. Studies show that after transplants, the average kidney lasts seven to nine years. With this wellness program in place, the primary goal is to help patients live longer, healthier lives with their new kidneys.
Each patient is given their own individualized wellness plan that meets their unique post-surgery goals. Patients typically commit to it two times a week for eight weeks. Since September, nine patients have successfully graduated. “They have all made significant improvements in balance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness,” said Karen.
“We wanted to provide a safe space for these patients,” said Rick Hunter, social worker at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West. “This is a whole wellness program and not just physical. We want our patients to feel a part of a community and be with other like-minded people who have gone through the same thing. It can be isolating for some, and that's where we want to play a role. We also want to honor the fact that they just had life-saving surgery. This is a huge gift for them, and we want to provide a new outlook on life.”
Tom Kosinski, 55, was the first patient to start and graduate from this kidney wellness program. It was one year ago, on March 3rd, 2022, that he had a kidney transplant, saving his life. “Working with this program was completely amazing,” said Tom. “It's forcing you to get out of bed and move around and do things that are hard to do on your own. The staff at the wellness center are just phenomenal because they create a program to your individual needs.” Tom is now averaging his walks to 6.6 miles a day. “I attribute this progress to the wellness program and everything they have done for me,” said Tom.
Ascension Saint Thomas will soon be introducing Phase II of the program. This phase will focus on incorporating pre-transplant patients to help them prepare for surgery, allowing them to gain the strength they need to heal quicker after their transplant.