‘My Transplanted Self’: Adolescent recipients’ experience of post-traumatic growth following thoracic transplantation
Authors: S.J Anthony, D.B Nicholas, C Regehr, L.J West
Background: Despite heart and lung transplantation being life-saving therapies for children and adolescents, little research has focused on recipients’ lived experience post-transplant. This study captures the subjective experiences of adolescent thoracic transplant recipients, providing insight into the impact of life changes following transplantation in this population.
Methods: A grounded theory approach guided an iterative process of data collection and data analysis. Adolescent heart and lung transplant recipients were recruited from a large Canadian pediatric teaching hospital to participate in one-on-one semi-structured interviews. Analysis using line-by-line coding and constant comparison methods facilitated reflection and agreement on categories and emergent themes.
Results: A total of 27 heart and 5 lung transplant recipients (66% female) participated at a median age of 15.9 years and a median time post-transplant of 2.7 years. Participant narratives illuminated three themes describing (1) personal growth – an awareness of personal strengths and coping abilities, (2) relationship growth – a greater appreciation for family and friends, and (3) introspective growth – a developing life philosophy. Findings suggest that adolescents experience an emergent ‘transplanted self’, positioning thoracic transplantation as a potential catalyst for positive growth and personal change.
Conclusions: The study findings describe pediatric thoracic transplantation as potentially transformative in nature and sheds light on the application of post-traumatic growth theory. Practitioners and researchers are encouraged to acknowledge the possibility of growth, transformation, and positive change that may be possible within the adolescent thoracic transplant experience and leverage such strengths in clinical care.