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News From The Heart: Cardiologist Donates Blood During Surgery

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I often post about problems with physicians, errors, insensitivity, and the omnipresent police state tactics governing medications and their studies.

There is also the heroic doctor. In this case, the surgeon interrupted cardiac surgery to give blood for a young patient. The case, reported by the AP, tells of a Dr. Weinstein from Westchester County, New York, who was operating on an 8-year-old patient during a mercy mission to El Salvador. The boy needed his rare B-negative blood. The doctor took 20 minutes off to give a pint which was given to the boy while the doctor continued the heart valve surgery. The 43-year-old Weinstein was on a charity trip with Heart Care International when he did the surgery at Bloom Hospital in San Salvador.

In the May 11 operation, which had begun 12 hours earlier, the boy's failing aortic valve was replaced with his pulmonary valve and the pulmonary valve was replaced with an artificial valve.

"The surgery had been going well, everything was working great, but he was bleeding a lot and they didn't have a lot of the medicines we would use to stop the bleeding," Weinstein said. They were running out of blood to give the boy, he added. When he asked the boy's blood type, he discovered they were both B-negative.

Weinstein, who said he was an occasional blood donor — "but never like this" — said the interruption to donate a pint lasted about 20 minutes.

Credit must be given where credit is due. The medical profession is far from bereft of compassion and their oath, no matter how far back the Greek origins, remains alive.

Over the past two years I have written a few articles for Blogcritics and for my health related blog, Health Reports, that have been critical of procedures, medicating, fear of federal police agencies interfering, or their own insensitivity. I do not believe that that is really the norm but that many physicians often work to the best of their abilities and do remember their original (we hope) commitment to healing and the alleviation of pain. Some, however, are more committed than others. Dr. Weinstein of Westchester County, New York is such a doctor.

My cousin in Jerusalem who is ultra-religious sent me the news report to bolster his repeated attempts to make me proud of Jews and their religion. Since I am not religious I do not attribute this doctor's action to his religion as much as to his personal morality and dedication which can be found in all manner of religious flavors.

Another recent cardiological report of interest is in a BBC report Living Organ Transplant. The article describes the first ever transplantation of a heart that had been kept beating from the time of its "harvest" to the surgical implantation. The procedure was developed and accomplished in the U.K.

Doctors have carried out the UK's first successful beating-heart transplant.

The recipient, a 58-year-old man who received his new heart two weeks ago at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, is said to be doing "extremely well."

The new technique involves keeping a donated heart warm and beating throughout the procedure, rather than packing it in ice for transport.

One expert told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it could "triple or quadruple" the number of transplants. The differences are in the additional time the heart will remain viable prior to transplant and the ability to further test for compatibility.

Two more valuable medical sites of extreme interest are: Cardiology "Presented and explained by Robert J. Matthews, MD." Dr. Matthews even answers questions about symptoms and treatments individually from the site.

Another is Heart Linx on the MD Linx Network.

In my health related blog I also noted that I remain opposed to a transplant for myself. There would be too much time spent waiting for a donor heart near a modern hospital (less if this procedure is adopted), too much danger and pain in the operation (I already survived a bypass and six or seven angioplasties) and the anti-rejection period and medications would mean more time hanging out in an urban atmosphere in the US with the same problems, essentially, as an AIDS patient — a sponge for any disease.

I chose the CardioVascular Institute at Baptist Hospital in Miami partly because (originally) they did not offer transplants. I remained because of the success and level of care I have received.

It does point out for cardiac, stroke and other "popular" disease sufferers that the secret is to hang in there as long as possible because the advances are coming with greater frequency. The modern world does have wonders left up its sleeve. Hopefully the religious zealots will not find any way to slow these advances.

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  • Thanks for this informative article, Howard — it’s been chosen as an Editors’ Pick this week!

  • I applaud this doctor for such a heroic act!