'Beating heart' avoids blood spillage

Times News Network/December 16, 2003

Bangalore -- The 50-year-old patient's religious beliefs meant he would not take a single drop of blood from anyone, even if his triple bypass surgery demanded it. For the surgery team at the Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Heart Centre, it meant extra caution to ensure no blood spillage at all.

Even doctors for whom heart surgeries have become routine affairs run into patients who test the limits of their skills once in a while. Patients from the tiny Jehovah's Witness sect feature high on the list. Father of three daughters and a son, A.R. Solomon, a member of the Jehovah's Witness sect which prohibits blood transfusion in all circumstances, posed a challenge when he walked in with weak heart walls. To the BMJ Heart Centre team lead by Dr Mukundan - a veteran of close to 5,000 open-heart surgeries and nearly 1000 beating heart coronary bypass surgeries, the solution to the problem was clear, the mode was not.

"Solomon's condition needed a triple bypass surgery but we could not afford to lose a single drop of blood due to his beliefs. The beating heart technique where blood transfusion needs are much less than open heart surgeries gave us the confidence of success,"says Dr Mukundan. Finally, Solomon was operated using the beating heart technique a few days ago. Extra care was taken to avoid blood spillage in the four hour surgery and Solomon's heart condition was restored while his religious beliefs remained intact.

"On medical grounds, a doctor needs to do everything to save their patient's life. But my religion is equally important to me, perhaps more important than my own life. I am glad the doctors understood this," says Solomon. Dr Mukundan said this is the second case he has come across involving members of the Jehovah's Witness sect in the past five years. "In the US involving a young child from the sect, doctors had to make the child a ward of the court to enable treatment after the sect's beliefs impeded care," he said.

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