Woman refuses blood to undergo heart op

November 24, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

A Jehovah’s Witness, 40-yr-old Malad mother said it was against her religious beliefs, hunted for a doctor willing to risk a valve replacement.

Meena Koli with Dr Bijoy Kutty at the Mulund hospital where she is recovering

Meena Koli with Dr Bijoy Kutty at the Mulund hospital where she is recovering

Mumbai, November 21, 2012: A 40-year-old fisherwoman successfully underwent surgery to replace a valve in her heart last week — without being given blood transfusion because of her religious beliefs. Meena Koli, a Jehovah’s Witness, told doctors she would rather die than undergo blood transfusion.

Because of her strong religious beliefs, the Madh Island (Malad) woman went from hospital to hospital in search of a doctor who would take up the challenge of operating on her without blood transfusion.

Finally, in Mulund’s Platinum Hospital, Koli found a doctor prepared to take up the daunting task, but not before she and her husband had been counselled and explained in great detail the high risk they were taking and the drastic consequences they faced should anything inadvertently go wrong. Last week, Koli was operated on successfully without being given a single drop of blood.

The operation was performed under Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayi Arogya Yojana, a government scheme that offers free medical facilities to a certain section of society.

Around three months ago, Koli, a mother of three school-going children, had been diagnosed with severe mitral stenosis and moderate mitral regurgitation with a left arterial clot. The condition necessitated a mitral valve replacement.

“When Koli approached us, she was experiencing acute breathing problems and an immediate valve replacement was the only solution,” said Dr Bijoy Kutty, the cardiac surgeon who operated on Koli. “But she laid down the condition regarding blood transfusion, and we were initially shocked.

I was reluctant to take the risk, but realised she was in urgent need of surgery or could die soon.” Unable to convince the woman to change her mind, yet wanting to help her, Dr Kutty and his team of seven doctors then thoroughly explained the procedure to Koli and her fisherman husband, highlighting the extraordinary risk they were taking.

“I explained everything to them in great detail, but due to their beliefs the woman just wasn’t prepared to accept blood. In any open heart surgery, the minimum of two units of blood is needed,” Dr Kutty said. “But the family was not even prepared to accept her own blood transfusion, in which blood from the patient is harvested before surgery and the same infused after the procedure is over.”

The procedure

Since there was to be no blood transfusion, three months ago the doctors began building up the haemoglobin level of the patient with the use of IV iron supplements. The patient was then taken up for surgery. Dr Kutty said, “Valve replacement surgery does not take more than three hours, but in Koli’s case we decided to go slow to control the bleeding.

So, it took six hours to complete the procedure, during which we used non-blood alternatives like low molecular weight dextrans and starch products to control the bleeding.” In the OT, Koli was connected to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine and her heart stopped temporarily so that the diseased valve could be removed and a new valve sewn into place. Her heart was then restarted.

“Koli’s operation was successful and she is now making a slow, but steady recovery. She hopes to go home to her family in a couple of days,” Dr Kutty said. Koli’s husband Dilip said, “We refused transfusion and blood products as we believe it’s a violation of God. I am happy that my wife is doing well.”

Jehovah’s witnesses and blood transfusion

Based on their interpretations, Jehovah’s Witnesses — a group with beliefs that are distinct from mainstream Christianity — believe that blood transfusions are a violation of God’s law.

The willing acceptance of blood transfusion by an unrepentant member has been grounds for expulsion from the religion, according to Wikipedia. Members are directed to refuse blood transfusions, even in life-or-death situations.

– punemirror

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