For forty-eight years Fonyin Lau lived an active lifestyle. He occasionally ran marathons, enjoyed swimming and camping, and kept himself busy with volunteer work. He also avoided health risks such as smoking, drinking, and overeating. His only concern was his high cholesterol, but besides that, he considered himself in good health. On his latest assignment, however, things quickly changed. Fonyin was busy teaching in San Francisco, the city of crooked streets, when he realized he was having a hard time walking and keeping up with the other volunteers.
“I couldn’t breathe. It was like someone was pushing on my chest,” Fonyin explains. “The pressure was so bad I threw up. I figured I was out of shape and better get checked out when I go back home to New York.”
But exercise would not fix Fonyin’s dire situation. At his next physical he was shocked to hear the doctor’s report: his arteries were 80% clogged.
Fonyin and his family were stunned. How could a young man in his late 40’s with no family history of heart disease be on the brink of a heart attack?
Fonyin’s local hospital sent him for an emergency angioplasty. Coronary angioplasty is a procedure used to open blocked or narrowed heart arteries.
“Everything happened so quickly. I went to have the angioplasty done and it was a failure. The arteries were so clogged and narrow the doctors couldn’t get the stent in. And because I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and would not accept a blood transfusion, I didn’t want to go ahead with a more complicated surgery at that hospital.”
Fonyin felt hopeless. Who would take on his unique case?
“I was so scared. I never thought this would happen to me. Thankfully I heard about [The Institute for Patient Blood Management and Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at] Englewood Hospital and I asked to be transferred right away.”
According to the Dept. of Health and Senior Services of Cardiac Surgery in NJ, Englewood Hospital has a 0.00% mortality rate for coronary bypass surgery and one of the lowest average lengths of stay in the state of NJ. More than 80% of cardiac surgeries are performed transfusion-free, even if a patient will accept a transfusion.
“Once I arrived at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center I didn’t have to think or worry anymore. Everything was taken care of. The Institute made all arrangements for me to ensure I’d have a transfusion-free surgery and they introduced me to Dr Klein,” recalls Fonyin.
Dr. James Klein, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, was ready to take on this challenging case.
“Mr. Lau came to me with critical blockages. He needed open heart surgery right away. I have performed over 200 open heart surgeries on Jehovah’s Witnesses and we respect all our patient’s wishes. We have a comfort level of mutual trust and respect with excellent results,” affirms Dr. Klein.
When Dr. Klein found out that Fonyin had been taking medication that contained aspirin, he delayed the operation five days so the aspirin wouldn’t affect the surgery or the conservation of his blood.
“Although blood can be life-saving in certain cases, there are known risks to blood transfusions,” explains Dr. Klein. “The patient’s immune system can be damaged. There’s also a risk for infections and other complications. So when the patient does not want to accept blood for whatever reason we have several techniques on hand like the cell-saver, normovolemic hemodilution, etc—provided it is ok with the patient. We also use meticulous surgical techniques so we don’t lose large amounts of blood to begin with.”
On May 10th, 2011 Fonyin Lau went in for his four hour quadruple bypass surgery. This type of surgery uses a healthy blood vessel taken from the patient’s leg, arm, chest or abdomen and connects it to the other arteries in the patient’s heart so that blood is bypassed around the blocked area.
After surgery Fonyin was moved to ICU and thought he would be there for a week or more.
“I recovered so quickly I was out in a few days,” explains Fonyin. “It was a great experience and the best hospital for my needs. Everyone was so nice and when it came to bloodless medicine they knew what they were doing. Now I’m back to walking fast without that feeling in my chest or difficulty breathing. Had I not had the surgery I would have had a heart attack and it might have been too late to do anything. I am so grateful.”
The Institute for Patient Blood Management and Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Englewood Hospital is the pioneer in bloodless care and has helped thousands of patients in health crises like Mr. Fonyin Lau. Choosing your hospital is a very personal decision. And making sure your wishes are met is a goal The Institute takes very seriously.
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