“Immunosuppressants, or anti-rejection medications – these are the medications to prevent your body from attacking your new organ. It’s all so new, so your body may perceive it as a threat to your body and therefore, it is important to take these anti-rejection medications as prescribed. You also need to take these antibiotics and antivirals to prevent potential infections….”.

A teaching session for a newly successful organ transplant usually takes at least an hour or two to complete.  It covers why the medications are needed, how to take them, what to watch out for as well as when to call for urgent help versus making an appointment with the physician. But most patients and families do not complain as they are just grateful to have a second chance of life.

I find the idea of rejection quite intriguing, that at a cellular level, our bodies are designed to reject things that are foreign to us such as bacteria, viruses or in this case, a new organ. This innate nature that is observed at a cellular level can also be seen at a personal level  where people may reject or discriminate others that may look different or “foreign”.  But does that mean we are programmed to be racist or discriminate against others who do not look like us?

We are programmed to be on a high alert when we detect differences. It is up to us to understand the differences and determine how to manage them.  If the differences are percieved as real threat, then it makes sense to do what is needed for protection. But if the differences lead to adaptation for survival, then embracing them help us to grow stronger.

When a new organ is transplanted in the recipient’s body, our immune system needs to figure things out, so it may be stimulated to attack the organ or to reject it. The anti-rejection medications help to prevent our body from harming the new organ. Yet with time, our body will also learn to adapt to the new organ and develop tolerance for graft survival.

If our body can learn to develop tolerance, why can’t we also be more tolerant of others who may be different?  In fact, it is often a matter of perception whether something or someone is different or not. If we ignorantly focus on the small differences but fail to widen our lenses to recognize other similarities among us, then this is how racism or discrimination breeds. It takes an open mind, a willingness to understand others, and also patience to work out these differences. But the end result will often help us to grow, to discover new ways to deal with conflicts and embrace our seemingly differences to make us stronger.

 

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