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July 12, 2011 > Open Heart Surgery Performed Without Blood Transfusions

Open Heart Surgery Performed Without Blood Transfusions

Patient Praises Hospital Staff for Respecting his Beliefs

Quinton Carnes was a walking time bomb. His carotid artery was blocked and a valve in his heart was about to give out. But he didn't know it until he had a routine test done last December. He is feeling much better now that the blockage in his artery has been removed and the valve in his heart has been replaced thanks to two surgeries he underwent in April which did not require any blood transfusions. Through careful planning by Dr. Jon-Cecil Walkes, cardiothoracic surgeon and the other caring staff at Washington Hospital, they were able to honor the wishes of Mr. Carnes to not have any blood transfusions.

"I don't take blood, so I explained my circumstances to Dr. Walkes," Carnes said. "He said he could do the surgery without giving me blood. It gave me such peace of mind knowing I could follow my religion."

Carnes' medical journey started when he went to see Dr. Mark Avon to be treated for bleeding in his bladder. Before he could have surgery to stop the bleeding, the urologist and member of the Washington Hospital staff had him take some routine tests, including an electrocardiogram or EKG. The test was performed by his regular physician, Dr. Bala Annadurai, who saw some irregularities. She referred him Dr. Rohit Sehgal, a cardiologist on staff at Washington Hospital.

"I always knew I had a heart murmur, but I thought it was because I had rheumatic fever as a child," said Carnes, a longtime Fremont resident. "It turns out I was born with a malformed aortic valve."

Sehgal ran more tests and determined that Carnes would need heart surgery. Carnes decided to see Dr. Walkes after reading that the cardiothoracic surgeon had performed a number of surgeries without blood transfusions.

"Dr. Walkes was great," Carnes said. "He and his staff took really good care of me."

In the process of evaluating Carnes for the heart surgery, Walkes discovered that his carotid artery was blocked, reducing blood flow to his brain. A blocked carotid artery significantly increases the risk of stroke.

Careful Preparation

"We are developing a program at Washington Hospital where we can treat people who don't want blood transfusions," Walkes said. "With some careful preparations before the surgery, we can minimize the need for blood."

In the days leading up to his first surgery to unblock his carotid artery, Carnes received 17 injections of a drug that helps to build up the hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin in the blood is what transports the oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

"The drug increased the hemoglobin so that if he did lose some blood, it would only take the hemoglobin count down a very small amount," Walkes explained.

Three days after the procedure to unblock his carotid artery, Carnes underwent open heart surgery. His heavily damaged aortic valve was replaced with a new one.

Carnes said he can't believe how good he feels since the surgeries. Looking back, he said he realizes now that his health had started to seriously decline about three years ago. He was 68 and just figured old age was setting in, he said.

Now he's looking forward to spending more time with his family. That was the plan when he retired from Crown Cork and Seal 10 years ago. He and his wife have six children, 10 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

"I never thought I would feel this good again," he said. "When I started feeling bad, I put on a lot of weight. It had gotten to the point where I could hardly do anything."

Already he's lost 40 pounds and is walking a mile a day. He's looking forward to his annual hunting trip in the fall and traveling to Arizona with his daughter this summer.

"If I hadn't had the surgeries, I wouldn't be here," Carnes said. "I would have had a massive heart attack or stroke. I don't think I would have lasted a year. I'm taking much better care of myself from now on."

To learn more about the Heart Program at Washington Hospital, visit

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