Recovery & Home Care
What is recovery?
Recovery is the long-term process of regaining blood cell production and immune function as well as strength, energy, and appetite following a stem cell transplant. The recovery process may last for months, even years, until your body has reached its highest possible level of functioning.
When will I be discharged from the hospital?
Your physicians will determine your readiness for discharge based on your blood counts, your nutritional status, and your overall level of health. Most patients are discharged in the 3rd or 4th week after the transplant.
Is there follow-up medical care after I leave the hospital?
Initially, you will be seen at least weekly in the Stem Cell Transplant Clinic, located on the 14th floor of Galter Pavilion. These weekly visits will continue until post-transplant complications are resolved, which could be a few weeks to several months. At that point, your care may be transferred to your referring physician for continued monitoring, or your care may be shared between your referring physician and the physicians at Northwestern Memorial.
During each clinic visit, your blood levels and medication status will be reviewed, and you will be evaluated for any new symptoms of side effects or complications. The physician and nurse will be glad to answer questions at any time.
You may be offered home health care during recovery, particularly for transfusions and blood draws in your home. The staff of stem cell transplant will schedule your clinic appointments and arrange for home health care, if needed.
How will I care for myself at home?
Stem cell transplant patients continue to be at risk for infection and complications for months or longer after transplant. You will play a very important role in the recovery process by following the self-care guidelines you will be given by the stem cell team.
You will be given specific information about precautions you should take and symptoms that may be cause for concern. Most patients are encouraged to avoid crowds, gardening, pets, and contact with people who are ill. Since your skin is the first line of defense against infection, careful skin care is also essential.
Your home will need to be thoroughly cleaned before your return, and you will be encouraged not to perform housecleaning functions for some time. You will also be given guidelines about handling pets and plants in the home.
Good nutrition plays an important role in your recovery. Our dietitians will give you information about foods likely to be appealing to your appetite as well as helpful in your recovery.
Throughout your transplant, it is important to get enough exercise to build your strength. When you return home, you will be encouraged to continue with some type of daily activity. The staff will help you find the types and amount of activity which supports your recovery.
For at least the first few weeks at home, your immune system will still be fragile and you will tire easily. For these reasons, it is best to limit the number of visitors and to be sure that all visitors are in good health. The staff of the Stem Cell Transplant Program will give you specific information about these and other ways you can protect and care for yourself during the recovery process.