California man travels to UChicago Medicine for life-saving bloodless heart transplant from the nation’s most experienced team

[MUSIC PLAYING] I would say, before my activities were always been golfing, basketball, bowling. And I felt to the point where I couldn't do any of those things again. Fatigue, shortness of breath. It's extremely important based on Bible principles that blood is sacred. We view blood as sacred. And it's not that we don't want to live or get the best medical care possible. No, it's just that is what is outlined in God's word, the Bible.

So for me, it's extremely important. And it's a life decision that I will not take blood. And we have a hospital liaison committee. And they had recommended University of Chicago as one of the places that was definitely excellent in doing bloodless surgery. And because of that, their team reached out to me here in Chicago. They reached out to my wife and myself, explaining exactly what they do, exactly what time frame that they do it in.

And based on the recommendation of the HLC and their representatives, then I was able to make a decision. Definitely, Jehovah was able to guide me in the right direction. And that's one reason why we chose here at the University of Chicago.

He went up and down the West Coast. Went to other programs that say they do bloodless surgery but the results weren't great and they weren't really interested in taking care of him, because not only did he need bloodless surgery, he was also ill. And his pressures in his heart were very high. His output was low. And he was in borderline kidney failure.

And so we actually spoke to his cardiologist per the request of the family. And even the cardiologist when he spoke to Dr. Jay said, are you guys sure you can do this because he has this and this. And Dr. Jeevanandam said, yeah, we can do it.

My goal when I was in the hospital, I kept telling myself, I got to do what I have to do so I can get back home to my babies. Being a dad with two girls is a little sentimental. But I kept telling myself, I got to get back home to my babies, I got to get back home to my babies.

What makes us able to do these patients that other people won't do is when you have a good program, you can have a certain margin of error. But with patients who need very, very tight margins of error, like almost no error at all, you need to have a superlative team. And that's exactly what we've done. So we've created a superlative team.

That starts with our cardiologists, and they understand what Jehovah's Witnesses need to go through. Then you have the surgical team. When we operate, it's not like every surgeon does this. So we have a specific group of surgeons, we have a specific group of physician assistant, nurses, perfusionists that take care of these patients.

And so everybody's in sync. Almost, you don't have to talk to each other because we all know what we're going to do. And know all the little things that we do to preserve blood. And we go after every single area where we can lose blood.

So I think within a week or so he got a heart, it worked out great. And his pressures were high in the beginning but we knew how to manage them even in Jehovah's Witness. Those pressures then normally came down when the heart was good. And he [INAUDIBLE]. I think, he left the hospital in a very short period of time, like 14 to 21 days. And he's doing great.

My life is, it's funny. It's a lot better. Not just a lot better, it's very, very good, it's fabulous actually. To be able to walk, to be able to even run a little bit now. i'm starting running. To be able to go play golf, to be able to do all the activities I was doing without being hampered with being tired or fatigued, those things, I can't describe the feeling. It is so wonderful to be able to do those things on a regular basis.

Because when you say heart transplant, everybody, your peers, your friends are like, heart transplant, that's major. But when you're at the University of Chicago, when you're there with the team, and you see how regularly they do these things, it puts you at ease. 

When 50-year-old San Francisco native Lane Jenkins could no longer manage his failing heart with medication and minimally invasive interventions, he faced a moral and physical dilemma: Jenkins needed a heart transplant, but his faith as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses required the surgery be done bloodlessly – without the use of blood products or transfusions.

“A bloodless surgery is extremely important based on Bible principles that blood is sacred,” Jenkins said. “It’s a life decision that I will not take blood.”

Bloodless heart surgery is a safe alternative for patients who have serious heart conditions but cannot or choose not to receive any blood or blood products (red cells, white cells, plasma or platelets). During bloodless heart surgery, physicians use meticulous surgical techniques and innovative procedures that minimize surgical blood loss and avoid the need for a transfusion during surgery.

Bloodless heart transplants are incredibly complicated and require an experienced and willing surgical team. Jenkins suffered from congestive heart failure and had additional health concerns that made his procedure even more complex. Despite visiting some of the top hospitals on the West Coast, Jenkins was unable to find a surgeon willing to perform his heart transplant bloodlessly.

He expanded his search with the help of the Jehovah’s Witness national Hospital Liaison Committee and found the nation’s most experienced bloodless heart transplant surgeon: Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD, Director of the University of Chicago Medicine’s Heart and Vascular Center. Jeevanandam and the UChicago Medicine Advanced Heart Failure team worked with Jenkins and his family and were confident they could deliver him a successful outcome while respecting his faith.

“What makes us able to help these patients that other people won't operate on is a superlative team that we’ve created,” Jeevanandam said. “That starts with our cardiologists, and they understand what Jehovah's Witnesses need. Then you have the surgical team. We have a specific group of surgeons, physician assistants, nurses and perfusionists that take care of these patients; everybody’s in sync.”

Jenkins matched with a donor heart in a little over one week, and his May 2021 transplant was a success. The real estate investor is living in Naperville, Illinois, while he continues to recover and regain his strength, and credits the UChicago Medicine team with saving his life.

“My life is fabulous, actually,” Jenkins said. “To be able to do all the activities I was doing without being hampered with being tired or fatigued – I can't describe the feeling.

“When you're at the University of Chicago Medicine and you see how regularly they do bloodless transplants, it puts you at ease.”
Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD

Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD

Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam specializes in the surgical management of heart failure, and is an expert in high-risk cardiac surgery. He has performed more than 1,000 heart transplants — including the total artificial heart — and countless cardiac surgery procedures.

Learn more about Dr. Jeevanandam
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UChicago Medicine’s Bloodless Heart Surgery Program performs bloodless heart surgery (or transfusion-free heart surgery) on even the most complex bloodless heart surgeries without compromising our patients’ religious or personal reasons for needing “no blood” surgical or medical treatment. the most complex bloodless heart surgeries.

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