MedStar in the News


The New Yorker's three-part series, “Medicine Without Blood,” discusses the ways that Jehovah’s Witnesses have changed how doctors think about blood transfusion. 

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Bloodless Medicine & Surgery Patient Stories

Patient’s Perspective as told by Sharon Abney

Twelve years ago I was involved in a head-on collision with a speeding van. When the emergency response team arrived they strap-ped me to a board to prevent a spinal injury, and I was rushed to the hospital.

It was truly a life-altering experience. Prior to the accident, I was an extremely high-energy person, to the extent that my friends often called me an “energizer bunny”. I ex-ercised every other day, I was a fully en-gaged, independent, attentive mother of a small child, a wife, a business owner, and very active in my congregation — all of which brought me much joy. That part of my life now seemed to be a thing of the past. The accident left me unable to enjoy even the smallest of pleasures, like taking a walk in the park with my family. Pain traveled through my body, from head-to-toe. There were times when even my eyes would hurt when I shut them, and I would swell up for no apparent reason.

Patient Perspective_Sharon AbneyI found myself on a quest to find some sort of relief. That was the beginning of a long series of visits to a variety of specialists: orthopedists, chiropractors, physical therapists, rheumatologists, acupuncturists, homeopathic doctors — you name them, I’ve seen them. At this point depression began to set in, so my doctor wanted me to begin anti-depression medication. My response was a flat out “NO”. I asked him which came first, the pain or the depression. Sitting in his office, tears would roll down my face uncontrollably. We were both at our wits end. My chipper personality was waning and despite my best efforts, those who knew me best could see straight through my façade.

One evening, during dinner with some close friends, the conversation turned to me and my health. Although the discussion made me a little uneasy, it led me to the best healthcare I have ever experienced. My friend gave me the telephone number of Michael Hofmann, the coordinator of the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Program (BMSP).  Everyone in that program has the upmost respect for people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds. They always put their patients’ comfort before their own by being available at any given time to offer assist-ance, no matter how major or minor the medical issue. That same caring attitude can be discerned in the doctors at MGUH, whom I consider some of the most compassionate, professional doctors in the nation.

I had the pleasure of meeting one such doctor, orthopedic spinal surgeon, Dr. “Bobby” Kalantar. From the moment I met him, he put me at ease. I had complete confidence that he would not only get to the root of my problem, but I sensed he genuinely cared about me as a person. As a result of our conversations, I knew I would get some long awaited relief! Dr. Kalantar examined me, he talked with me, and most importantly he listened. On my first visit he got the ball rolling. In just days he discovered the problem that eluded other doctors for years — I had cervical spine issues. My C5 and C6 discs were completely de-generated, and surgery was inevitable. I was so sure of Dr. Kalantar’s expertise that I asked how soon he could perform the surgery. If it could’ve been done that same day, I was willing.

In October 2012, I underwent cervical spine surgery. The bloodless program’s nurse coor-dinator, Dick, and administrative assistant, Christine, met me in the early morning to make sure I wasn’t nervous and didn’t have any last minute questions. Thanks to Dr. Kalantar my surgery was very successful! Since that surgery, I have had four other surgeries at Georgetown with the assistance of the bloodless program. My 94-year-old mother-in-law and my 14-year-old daughter have both been successfully treated at MGUH through the bloodless program, by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mark Zawadsky, and pediatric oncologist, Dr. Aziza Shad.

MGUH with its bloodless program is, and will always be, my hospital of choice for my entire family.

Patient’s Perspective as told by Doug Sauer

All my life I have worked in construction and always dreamed of building a timber-frame home.  My wife, Catherine, shares this dream, so when she retires next year, we will be moving to North Carolina, where we will build our timberframe retirement home in the mountains alongside a river. This dream, coupled with our enjoyment of the ministry and outdoor activities, has had us looking forward to the coming years with much anticipation.

However, about two or three years ago, I began experiencing weakness and pain in my left leg. It progressively deteriorated until it reached the point where after a full day of work I could barely walk and had to lift my leg into Patient Perspective_Doug Sauer
the truck for the drive home. Catherine finally convinced me to see a doctor. I figured I had muscle issues that could be resolved with a little physical therapy, but how wrong I was! The doctor entered the room with x-rays in hand, and informed me that all of the cartilage had worn away in my left hip. The joint was bone-on-bone, and I needed a replacement.

After the initial shock had worn off, Catherine and I began a search for an orthopedic surgeon who would do a good job, and who would be comfortable per-forming surgery without transfusing blood, per our religious beliefs. After extensive research, two doctors stood out that we were comfortable with, one being Dr. Brian Evans (featured in this issue’s Physician Spotlight column to the left). The deciding factor was that Dr. Evans practices at MGUH, which is also where the Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Program is located. That is where we met Christine and Richard, the bloodless program’s admin-istrative assistant and the nurse coordinator, respectively. Richard walked us step-by-step through the blood fractions, so we could make informed choices. He also told us he would be present prior to my surgery to ensure everyone involved understood my wishes and no mistakes would be made. Our conversations with Richard and Christine relieved a lot of the anxiety I was feeling prior to surgery.

I was the first surgery of the day, which meant we had to arrive by 5:00 a.m. to begin registration. By 6:30 a.m. I was going through the pre-surgical checklist with Dr. Evans, the anesthesiologist, and other sur-gical team members. As promised, Richard was there at my bedside making sure everyone was aware of my wishes regard-ing the use of blood and blood fractions. Dr. Evans did a wonderful job with my total hip replacement surgery.  The surgery lasted only 1 hour and 15 minutes, and when I awoke, the only ill effects I felt were the hunger pangs from not eating the night before.  After only one night in the hospital, I was able to return home. I have since completed my sessions of physical therapy, and I am back to normal with all my activities, only absent of any pain.

Catherine and I are so happy with the choice we made. The education the BMSP provides, showing the benefits of bloodless surgical procedures, has ingrained itself into the hospital where not only the surgeons, but also the anesthesiologists, nurses, and other staff are all aware and respectful of your wishes on the use of blood and blood products. The peace of mind the BMSP provides is invaluable. With everything one has to worry about, they help you relax and be confident about what’s coming.

Endless thanks goes to the BMSP, Dr. Brian Evans, and the many other cheerful doctors and nurses at MGUH who took such good care of me. If my right hip ever goes, I will be back. But for now, Catherine and I, along with our little yorkie, Chloe, are thrilled to say, “Let the adventure begin!”


 Patient’s Perspective as told by Lauren Beason

 As a soon-to-be first-time mother, my mind was filled with all the typical joys and concerns. One specific concern was which hospital to choose for pre-natal care and delivery. Being a patient with Myasthenia Gravis, an Patient Perspective_Lauren Beasonautoimmune neuro-muscular disease, it was important that I find a hospital that was knowledgeable and well equipped to handle any complications that may arise. At the same time, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was also important to find a hospital that offered a variety of bloodless procedure options. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital proved to be the perfect fit for our needs!

The OBGYN doctors and staff were wonderful throughout the entire process, and the NICU staff members were not only knowledgeable regarding our specific needs, but they even taught my husband how to change diapers like a pro! Additionally, the Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Program at MGUH was there to support us every step of the way!

The BMSP staff made themselves available to answer all of our questions and concerns, even setting up meetings with various specialists to be sure that we were aware of the bloodless treatment options available. They truly went above and beyond in caring for our needs. In the end, I left MGUH with a precious baby girl and memories of an outstanding experience.

Patient’s Perspective as told by John D. Brown

In October 2011, I fell and injured my back. After a series of x-rays the ortho-pedic doctor said nothing was broken and I should see a back specialist, which I did. His pre-surgical efforts consisted of ex-amining the x-rays I had taken showing a damaged nerve as well as scar tissue.

Patient Perspective _ John BrownSurgery was performed on January 24, 2012, on my L-5; however, the pain in-creased and walking became very dif-ficult to the point that I needed the use of a cane. After subsequent visits, the doctor told me that I was as good as I would be and pain management, done in his office, was recommended. My health continued to decline and I eventually stopped the pain management and all pain medications, including oxycodone. In March, my wife and I attended the MGUH Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Program seminar at Laurel High School.

On the program was Dr. Bobby Kalantar, a MedStar Georgetown back specialist, and his presentation was impressive. We decided a second opinion was indeed necessary and I met with Dr. Kalantar on April 19. His response to me was, "we are not done with you". I had hope that I could at least walk again. I had nerve conduction tests, more x-rays, and two types of MRIs. Dr. Macedo, neurologist, and Dr. Kalantar both agreed that surgery was needed to remove a disk fragment from the L-5/S-1 area of my back. Pre-surgical testing took place on May 30 and the surgery was a go.

On June 8, I met with Michael Hofmann, the director of the bloodless program, and he took care of all the details relating to the procedure and my wishes regarding bloodless surgery. Dr. Kalantar performed the surgery on June 13, removing the disk fragment which relieved the pressure on the nerve roots. The pain was gone within a day and I continue to improve daily. I retired the cane several weeks after the surgery. Thanks to Michael Hofmann, Christine Pedraza, and Dick Verstraete of the bloodless surgery team for their efforts and care.

Thanks to Dr. Kalantar for the application of his knowledge, skilled hands and personal touch. Special heartfelt thanks to my wife, Carol, for enduring the challenge of being my caregiver for the better part of a year and her continued encouragement that things would improve.


Make an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a bloodless medicine specialist, you may email [email protected] or call 


Bloodless Medicine Specialists

  • James Malatack, MD, Co-Director
  • Hiep Dao, MD, Co-Director
  • Mike Hofmann, Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Program Coordinator
  • Richard Verstraete, RN, Nursing Coordinator

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We are the only Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Program in the area. Learn more.

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