• lung transplant;
  • spouse;
  • stages;
  • interviews;
  • chaos;
  • coping;
  • medications;
  • donor;
  • couples

Experiences of well spouses after lung transplantation

Aim of the study. To explore what life is like for well spouses after their partners’ lung transplantation?

Background. The numbers of people having a lung transplant in the United States of America (USA), as well as surviving beyond 1 and 5 years, has increased steadily over the last decade. This trend is expected to continue. Few have examined the transplant experience from the view of well spouses who are the most typical patient-support person. Researchers have shown that spousal adjustment is closely associated with patient adjustment and recovery.

Design/methods. Using written surveys and taped telephone interviews in 1998, a convenience sample of 12 well spouses shared details of their lives after their partners’ lung transplant. Spouses from eight states in the USA responded to an invitation to participate which was posted on an internet listserv. Ages ranged from 40 to 66 years and the posttransplant time ranged from 4 to 60 months. Spouses completed a demographic form, the Family Inventory of Life Events (FILE), and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) prior to interview. Triangulation of methods augmented and corroborated data. Interviews stopped when saturation was reached. Data collection and analyses were carried out simultaneously using a constant comparative method.

Results. The core theme was the ‘roller coaster ride’ characterized by a series of ups and downs. Other major themes were coping, giving medications, knowing the donor, making comparisons, togetherness, and caring for the well spouse. Five identified stages were: the transplant event, cocooning, normalizing, branching-out and settling down.

Conclusions. This study supports nurses using a family centred focus. Nurses in all practice areas can apply information gained from this study to help spouses anticipate chaos at each stage and develop effective coping strategies.