My Recovery at Home

I was allowed home 2 days after the operation. The journey home was okay. Couldn’t really avoid all the bumps and potholes in the road so had to support my abdomen during the journey. It was good to be home. Own bed, own bathroom etc. Couldn’t keep my eyes open so had not been home for long before went up to bed. Now of course, my bed does not raise up like the hospital one. So with great effort I got onto the bed at a sort of an angle and then couldn’t move, lol. The pain in my abdomen was intense. Oh well – I just stayed there on the bed sort of laying across it – and went to sleep. Woke about 5am feeling refreshed and wanting the bathroom, but quite a battle to get out of bed. took around 10 minutes trying to work out the least painful way.

Decided that the next night I would sleep with lots of pillows behind me so my upper half is already raised, just like the hospital bed was. It would then be much easier getting in and out of bed as would not have to use my abdominal muscles as much.

In myself I felt very well. Still bloated which was uncomfortable rather than anything else so hopefully the extra 4 kilos would go soon. I got tired very very quickly. In fact I had only been up for around 3 hours and was walking back from the kitchen with a cup of tea and almost dropped it as I found my eyes closing as I walked. The tiredness just came out the blue!! I know I was told I would feel tired, but I was not sure if that meant bodily tired i.e. no energy, or tired in wanting to go to sleep. Now I know. I had to go back upstairs and get some sleep. I arranged the pillows so they were like a backrest. I have a memory foam mattress which is bliss. I could get into bed a lot easier now with little pain. I got a good hours sleep and woke refreshed. Around 3pm the same thing happened and I found my eyes just would not stay open, so got another hours sleep. I must say the first four or five days was like this. Suddenly feeling sleepy when I had only been up a few hours. I didn’t fight it as I knew my body needed the rest. I was also going up to bed around 7pm or 8pm in the evenings. I actually felt more comfortable laying propped up in bed than sitting in the chair downstairs, which squashed my abdomen up a bit and was uncomfortable. I had very good night sleep for the first week, most nights not waking at all until the morning. Pre operation I would wake about 3 or 4 times needing the bathroom. I also found that sleeping with my upper half propped up I could breathe a lot easier as well which I am sure aided a good night sleep. In fact I have continued to sleep propped up and find it much better than laying flat in bed. When I have saved the money I may just invest in a bed where I can raise the back up. I am surprised at the difference in quality of sleep I get this way.

The first week was obviously the hardest as I was not allowed to do much and I felt tired so quickly throughout the day and there was a bit of pain when I walked or used my lower abdomen. For some reason the first couple of days I forgot about the pain medication. Duh! After that I took it and made sure I took enough. Although I still had some pain, it was not troublesome. In fact I was quite pleased I had a little bit of pain as it reminded me to take things easy. I enjoyed being spoilt and looked after the first week!

Some people get no pain at all. I believe the only reason I got pain was because I am overweight and the pressure of a tummy “overhang” on the incision area coupled with gravity pulling down on it when I walked, just aggravated everything! If you picture walking with a bowl of jelly ….?? Yup I think you have the picture!  If I held in my abdomen muscles which then supported the incision area, then I had no pain at all when I walked. Of course remembering to take the pain medication would have helped!

Once 10 days had passed then I noticed a quicker improvement. I was not sleepy during the day any more, although I did physically get tired. It was quite some time before energy levels restored themselves. Incisions were healing nicely and everything was just great.

I also heard that the recipient was doing excellently well! That is the best news of all. Wonderful!

Recovery continued and things are great.  It has been a while since the evaluation finished in October 2009  and some time since kidney donation, so I hope I have remembered everything, I did make notes at the time but not always. Anyway I hope this blog gives a good insight into the process of becoming an Living  kidney donor and the actual donation process itself. I know if I had another spare kidney I would do it all again without hesitation.


164 Responses to “Recovery at home after Kidney removal”

  • Catherine:


    I just recently donated my left kidney and find many of the observations made in earlier posts to be spot on. I have pain and am quick to tire. My question is centered on the bloating. It seems my entire abdomen and my lower back are grossly disfigured-and it is uncomfortable. I’m waiting for the air/gas to dissipate, but this doesn’t seem to be happening very quickly. What, if anything, can I do to help restore things to my pre-surgery state (flat abdomen)? I’ve also noticed the bottom of my ribs hurt when I breathe deeply. Any idea why?

  • Diane:

    Hi Catherine,
    You don’t say how recently, but I know it was probably a couple of weeks before I felt my weight had returned to near normal, although my lower back I was not aware of being “disfigured”. I suppose there are no set parts of our body that will necessarily show the bloating. I was arms, legs and abdomen.

    I am not sure whether you are linking the air/gas with the body bloating? My body bloating was fluid retention and that affects a lot of people. The gas they pump into the abdomen cavity, most should go as they complete the operation with some migrating to shoulder area.

    If you are saying the abdomen and lower back bloating is due to the gas, then maybe seek advice from your donor coordinator?

    Bottom of your rib area could hurt because there was some bruising during the removal of the kidney.

    Make sure you drink plenty of water. Tiredness is very common, I would be having two or three naps during the day, even only just a couple of hours after waking. But if you can be mobile periodically. Sit upright when you can so any trapped gas can rise and gently walk around the house periodically. Keep active if you can BUT it is important you listen to your body If you are unusually tired, it is because your body is saying “hey I just had a major operation and cannot cope with you playing tennis and healing your body” 🙂 🙂 …. so you need to rest and not fight what your body tells you.

    I am no medical expert at all …. so I would say do consult your coordinator for their advice. I can only speak from personal experience and what I have heard others say.

    Let us know how you get on ….
    All the best in your recovery

  • Don Kaiser`:

    I have had a kidney removed about three weeks ago due to cancer. I was wondering if anyone could give me a clue as to recovery time and if being tired is part of it and how long it will last.
    Thank You

  • Diane:

    Hi Don,
    Thanks for posting and so sorry you had to have your kidney removed due to cancer. I hope you will be okay now it is removed.

    As for recovery … being tired can be a great part of it. It is strange but recovery can vary greatly from person to person. Some are up and around with no effects very quickly, others can take longer. So there is really no set answer. If it was open surgery then it will take longer than keyhole.

    I know with myself I was very tired for the first couple of weeks, having a lay down during the day and going to bed early. My recollection is that the main tiredness went but I was still tired at 6 weeks, but more early nights with no rest during the day.

    Some people say they are tired for several months afterwards, others that they never got tired at all …. work that one out !

    Make sure you drink lots of water and eat well. Your body will need the fluids and energy to help your body heal. Don’t do too much too early. Also listen to your body and when you are tired – rest up as it is your body’s way of saying it needs to heal but you are using up the energy 🙂

    I am not sure I can say too much more. I know I was told about 6 – 12 weeks to feel normal. That was with keyhole surgery. I know at six weeks when I went for my check up, I felt almost normal. Still tired at the end of the day and going to bed early and still some pain around the main incision area. Otherwise I was okay.

    Read through the many comments and you will see each person has a different story to tell re recovery. Having a kidney removed is a major operation and it can take a while for the body to get back to normal.

    I am not sure what effect having the cancer would have had on your body and whether that would affect the healing or not.

    Sorry I cannot be of real help to you. As said earlier there is no set pattern for the healing process. Any particular concerns you have though, please do contact your medical advisor and get their assistance.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery and hope all goes well.
    All the best

  • Latrice:


    I recently donated my left kidney to my husband. I have been trouble sleeping because I do not know how I should sleep. Do I sleep on the opposite side, my back, or flies it really matter? Forgive me if this question has already been answered.

    Thank You

  • Diane:

    Hi Latrice,
    Thanks for making contact.

    Sleep however you feel most comfortable. Try and avoid pressure on the main incision area.

    I found sleeping on my back with raised pillows was perfect for me. In fact it was the best sleep I ever had ! …. The pillows were raised so my upper body was not totally flat. It did mean a lot of pillows and cushions.

    I did find sleeping on either side (which was my normal position) was not that comfortable, as when I moved in my sleep a twinge would wake me.

    On my back I never moved. the pillows all round me supported me totally, so I could just relax. I could not lay totally flat on my back as I found breathing difficult and also very hard to get out of bed as it really played on the abdominal area trying to sit upright. But at the slightly raised angle it was all perfect.

    Make sure you take any necessary pain meds before bed if you feel any twinges.

    So there are no set rules as to the best position to sleep. If you prefer a certain position but find it a bit uncomfortable try and arrange the pillows for support etc.

    Any particular reason you are not sleeping … is it pain, or ???

    All the best

  • Nicole:

    I already have scoliosis so I am use to back pain but these sharp abdomen pain is killer!!!!
    Did a Ct scan and everything was good even the right kidney function was good
    What is wrong? Or am I just a slow healer??

  • Diane:

    Hi Nicole,
    Thanks for posting. Afraid I accidenally deleted your other post instead of hitting the approve button 🙁 but I know it said that you had nerve damage after the operation.

    I hate to coin the phrase “how long is a piece of string” but that is exactly how nerve damage is. I am sorry this has happened, you are not alone though. It is one of the unfortunate side effects that can happen. Time is the only healer and some people have reported it can be months before the pain subsides.

    Someone else who had similar may see this and post how they were.

    Sorry I am of no help to you. Hopefully pain meds will help and learning what movements you can avoid doing so as not to get the pain or to aggravate the nerve more.

    Well done for donating to your mum, I hope she is doing okay.

    I hope the nerve pain does not last for too much longer for you.

    All the best

  • Jack:

    I had my bladder and prostate removed in 2013 due to cancer. They did that with the robot. Now I have to have my left kidney removed for cancer also. I was just wondering if recovery time will be about the same.

  • Diane:

    Hi Jack,
    Thanks for posting. I am so sorry you have cancer. Such a cruel disease. It is so hard to speak about the recovery due to your health issues. Speaking for people who have good health and have donated a kidney to help someone else – the recovery can be quite quick. I was out of hospital the third day and apart from tiredness and a small incision infection, which quickly cleared up, my recovery was quick. But then I was healthy. I don’t know how long it took you to recover from the previous operation and to be honest I don’t really know much about the operation you had. I would have thought kidney would have been a quicker recovery as you have a second kidney to take over.

    Please note I am not the least bit medically qualified, what I have written above is purely just speculation regarding yourself.

    I wish I could be more helpful. I do wish you all the very best and that recovery is as quick as it was for myself and many others re the kidney removal.

    Take care and all the very best to you
    God Bless

  • Evelyn Hoppens:

    Thank you for all the notes, this has helped me as I will have a complete kidney removal on Monday…this tells me what I should expect… Evelyn

  • Diane:

    Hi Evelyn,
    I am so glad you found it all useful information. Good luck for Monday, I hope all goes well for you.

  • Angie:

    I had a full radical naphrectomy in October 2019. I had a tumor that was the size of a football engulfing my kidney. I was told that I had cancer. After the surgery and the pathology of the tumor, it turns out it was not cancer. My recovery was slow and still happening. Initially, it was very weird to lay on my back as I could feel all of my organs moving. I guess with a tumor that large all my other organs had moved and now was shifting positions internally. I was in the hospital a little over a week as my bowels were not moving, but once home I was able to taper off pain medication within a few days. The first couple weeks I just walked a little bit and then quickly tried to get back to walking 10,000 steps, which was a mistake. I started having muscle spasms in my stomach that took several weeks to stop. I started doing stretches and exercises to keep my abdomen from spasming which helped. I continue to do these. I have tenderness around my incision and most of my stomach Still feels numb with in inches from the incision. I feel like my abdomen even though I am doing sit ups and stretches every day is flabbier. I didn’t have a question I just wanted to share my experience. I found before having my surgery reading peoples experience was helpful. Being 10 months on the other side of it I am thankful to be alive and it impacts my life minimally at this point. Also very thankful that I did not have cancer and was not happy with it being presented as cancer even though it had not been confirmed prior to the surgery.

  • Diane:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Goodness, I don’t know what to say except I am glad you are now doing well. Sounds like you went through quite a worrying time. Though as you say, also thankful you did not have cancer, that was a huge relief.

    All the very best

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