How I’m childproofing my home as a post-transplant patient

A columnist prepares for a visit with his two young granddaughters

Samuel Kirton avatar

by Samuel Kirton |

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I spent last week childproofing my home. No, my wife, Susan, and I aren’t expecting. Our granddaughters, Abigail and Charlotte, are coming with my son Christopher for a visit to our home.

When I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in January 2017, there were no grandchildren in our lives. Abigail was born the following year. Her early memories of Pop Pop are that I always wore a nasal cannula. The purpose was to deliver oxygen, but she never really comprehended why the device was necessary. Charlotte was born in 2022, the year after my bilateral lung transplant, and is just over 2 years old now.

Childproofing a house as a grandparent who’s three years post-transplant isn’t the same as the childproofing that the girls’ parents might do. Susan and I are taking steps to eliminate access to areas where cleaning agents, laundry supplies, or other hazards may exist. In addition, I must take some extra precautions as a transplant patient who’s immunosuppressed.

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Taking steps to keep everyone safe

Among young children and immunosuppressed patients, pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a concern. After I received my new lungs, my care team had me get the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. It’s the adult version of the DTaP vaccine given to young children. According to a systematic review recently published in the journal Microorganisms, fewer than half of heart and lung transplant recipients studied were immune to pertussis toxin.

Therefore, hand sanitizer will be available throughout the house, reminiscent of the days during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The girls are healthy, but they’re still little kids who will play in the yard, touch public surfaces, and handle objects other people have touched. We’ll set an example with the use of hand sanitizer.

Susan and I are fortunate to have a separate living space in our home. Originally we created it in case there came a time when our parents would need to live with us. It’s an apartment with a full bath, kitchen, living room, and bedroom. It’ll allow the girls and their dad some privacy during the visit.

We’re not trying to isolate from the girls. Much of our time will be spent outdoors, hopefully some of it on the lake, weather permitting. As with any other guests, the more time we can spend in outdoor spaces, the more comfortable I’ll be. Even the screened-in porch is a safer option than being indoors.

Susan and I also have to take precautions with my medications. I currently take 15 medications totaling 35 pills a day. My supply resembles a small pharmacy. We’ll secure them in case the girls are tempted to explore.

As much as we’ve planned for this visit and believe we’re adequately prepared, I’m sure we’ll discover things we missed. That’s OK; we’ll simply learn and adjust as we go and be better equipped for future visits.

Despite my immunocompromised status, I know I’ll hold and hug those girls every chance I get. Abigail was a gift almost one year after my diagnosis, and we were blessed with Charlotte in my post-transplant life. They’re why I continue to work hard to make every breath count.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Rev Daniel J Lemke avatar

Rev Daniel J Lemke

I've possibly gone overboard, but I have been warning people about the possible hazards of swimming pools, railing on stairs and on raised floor surfaces, tip-over appliances, and furniture with the same problem. (I used to be a building inspector.) Little people are a true gift from God. (We have 14 of them, 2 currently living with us!) We need to be extra vigilant for potential hazards in our homes, to protect these little treasures as they grow and learn. I commend you for this reminder, and for your foresight. I pray that you and your younger visitors have a wonderful time together, and hopefully many more such times ahead. Blessings to all.

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for reading my column and for sharing your experience.

Sam ...


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