Bloodless Heart Surgery For Jehovah’s Witnesses

I currently see a growing number of patients from out of state who specifically travel to my center to undergo bloodless heart surgery procedures that were not otherwise available in their own town or state.

First, let me spend a few words for those of you who are not familiar with the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witness community about blood transfusions. Witnesses embrace and are comfortable with all aspects of modern medicine but their refusal to receive a blood transfusion is not negotiable.

Unfortunately, many physicians cannot offer proper care because they have a hard time understanding and respecting  these beliefs. Sometimes a finer distinction is made between refusing Packed Red Blood Cells and accepting some of the other blood fractions (i.e.: Fresh Frozen Plasma, Platelets, Cryoprecipitate) on  an individual basis, as a matter of personal conscience.

The aversion to receive blood transfusions stems from the interpretation of a specific passage in the Bible that states “Thou shalt not eat blood” and the spiritual ramifications of the disregard of this rule. I have treated hundreds of observant Jehovah’s Witnesses who would rather face death or suffer untoward consequences than break their religious rule. As a treating physician and a fellow human being I have learned to respect their strong faith while offering a safe treatment of their heart disease.

 Testimonial from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses:

Harold T., Marianna, Florida

Severe Aortic Valve Stenosis. Minimally Invasive Aortic Valve Replacement with Strict Bloodless Technique.

bloodless heart surgery for jehovahs witnessesMy name is Harold T., I’m 63 years old and I live in Marianna, Florida, about 50 miles north of Panama City Beach, Florida.
Thanks to Dr. Ciuffo, my wife and I spent November 25, 2010 on the beach for our 40th. anniversary.

My Story:
On August 2, 2010 my wife and I traveled to New York City for me to have aortic valve replacement. On August 4th., Dr. Giovanni Ciuffo performed my sugery at Mount SinaiHospital in Manhattan, NY.

First diagnosed with severe Aortic Valve Stenosis in February 2010 after several symptoms of the disease manifest themselves, I was advised that I needed surgery immediately if I wanted to continue living. However, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I knew it would take some time and careful planning to find a surgeon willing and capable of doing the surgery without using blood transfusions.

Performing the surgery without using blood transfusion was not optional, but also on my list of priorities was not to have my chest bone cut. I wondered if anyone was doing minimally invasive procedures on valve replacement. With that in mind, my wife began sending emails to hospitals listed under “Bloodless Surgery Centers”, inquiring about minimally invasive techniques. Most inquiries replied; “It can’t be done” or “Too risky without blood transfusions”.

Near the end of July we found Dr. Ciuffo’s website and immediately emailed him. He phoned us the next day. Expecting him to give names of surgeons we could contact near our area, we were surprised to hear; “You have found your surgeon, you can stop your search now.” Not only was it possible to do minimally invasive and bloodless; he said it was his specialty. My wife asked; “Can we travel to New York?” My answer was, “We have to go to New York.”

Eleven days later we were in Dr. Ciuffo’s office and he was explaining blood fractions and his close cooperation with the Liasion Committee of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was more informed than we were. He talked to us like we were close personal friends. His lengthly conversation filled us both with confidence. The surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

Just as Dr Ciuffo explained, his amazing procedure resulted in no blood loss. Therefore, no blood and no fractions were required nor used. The surgery was done on Wednesday and I was released on Saturday (3 days later). We went to the Hotel and by Saturday evening I was walking the streets of New York with my wife. Amazingly, I never had any pain nor down time. We stayed in New York five more days, until my follow up apointment with Dr. Ciuffo. His orders for me were to walk as much as I could, so we spent some time each day exploring Manhattan and Central Park. Upon returning home to Florida, I resumed my activities as usual and, with the exception of a few close relatives and a couple of close friends, no one knew I had undergone major heart surgery.

To quote James Bryant Conant, American chemist and past President of Harvard University, “Behold the turtle: He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out”.

Thank you, Dr. Ciuffo, for sticking your neck out for me, and for all who seek the best treatment while insisting on obeying the command of their God to “abstain from blood”. (Acts 15:19-20)

Sincerly Grateful,
Harold and Jane T.

Dr. Ciuffo’s Comment:

I am glad I had the opportunity to offer Harold my expertise. The bloodless heart surgery center has offered real solutions to countless patients. More and more hospitals are showing interest in developing a bloodless medicine service for their patient population. I have personally held lectures to help set up a bloodless medicine service in several institutions and the academic community continues to produce reliable literature in support of our efforts. The overwhelming majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses and patients otherwise in need of a surgical procedure with strict bloodless techniques have now access to the full range of surgical therapy.