Monday, April 2, 2007

The Hazards of Spring for a Transplant Patient

My dad went into the doctor the other day to discover that his creatinine levels had gone up a bit. They had to increase his immunosuppressants due to the increased rejection risk. I spent all day trying to figure out what would make his creatinie levels go up. The docs, of course, said it was normal and everything was just adjusting. That, of course, was not a satisfactory answer for me.

At first, I though it was due to his increased exposure to people, and therefore, viruses, which can trigger a rejection due to his complete immunosuppression (from the meds). But he is on such powerful anti-virals, that a little cold or flu virus would have no impact on him. Similarly, he is on high doses on anti-bacterials and anti-fungals for the same reason and effect.

Then, as I was driving around northern Virginia, a familiar smell hit me like a ton of bricks, and I knew exactly what why my dad’s creatinine had gone up. I immediately called my mom and asked if my dad had been working on the lawn. She yelled over to my dad, and sure enough, last week, he spread fertilizer, weed killer and lime as well as digging up holes for flowers and trees (you know how much Duni loves working on his lawn:) The smell I detected in the air was fertilizer and weed-killer – you know that smell…it overpowers the air the first few weekends of April, as homeowners around the country prepare their lawns for the summer. And it is extremely toxic – especially to immunosuppressed individuals.

There are a handful of drugs on the market that suppress the immune system to prevent various health issues – including organ rejection post-transplant. Other conditions that use these drugs are auto-immune disorders, cancer, and inflammatory conditions. The categories of these drugs are: steroids, corticosteroids and chemo-therapy. Some common names include: Prednisone, Cell-Cept, Albuteral, Ellidel, and Remicaid.

If you or anyone you know is taking any type of immunosuppressants, please warn them about the risks of environmental toxins. A person with suppressed immunity is extremely vulnerable to the negative effects of common environmental toxins found in everyday items such as processed foods (FD&C colors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives), commercial cleaning supplies used in the home, schools and businesses, common personal care products and pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. An immunosuppressed body is virtually defenseless against these toxins and extra care in avoiding them is a key component to recovery and permanent remission.

Nothing infuriates me more than watching a post-chemo / post-transplant patient sent off into the world without any information about their susceptibility to these harmful toxins that can and will trigger a reoccurrence, relapse or rejection if the proper steps are not taken to prevent or defend against them.