You should expect some pain after surgery. To make you more comfortable, you will receive pain medicine through an IV. Your transplant team will want you to be comfortable enough to cough, sleep, and participate in exercise.
You will not be able to breathe on your own immediately. Until you are strong enough to do so, you will have a tube in your throat so that a ventilator can help you breathe. It may be removed after a few hours or not until a number of days after surgery.
Once the doctors feel you are strong enough, the breathing and chest tubes will be removed. You may then be able to start drinking liquids. If you are able to tolerate liquids, you will slowly transition to eating solid foods.
Nurses, physical therapists, and respiratory therapists will help you with your physical therapy exercises and breathing exercises to prepare you for moving out of the ICU. When your doctors think you are ready, you will move from the ICU to a room in a nursing or transplant unit. You will gradually be able to increase your activity by getting out of bed, sitting up in a chair, and taking walks around the unit.
Your IV tubes will remain in place throughout your recovery. You will have begun receiving immunosuppressive drugs through these tubes as soon as your surgery was complete. Your doctors will closely monitor the levels of these drugs in your blood to be sure that you're receiving exactly the right amount, as having either too much or too little could be harmful to you. As you recover, you may be given other IV medicines to support your blood pressure, heart, kidneys, and liver.
You will stay in the hospital until your doctors are confident that it is safe for you to leave. This is not always a smooth process. Having a lung transplant is traumatic for your body and you will be particularly vulnerable to the complications during this time.
Before you are discharged, the transplant team will work with you to ensure that you are prepared to manage your recovery at home.