Doc gives patient blood during surgery
WHITE PLAINS, New York (AP) -- A heart surgeon had to take a break from a mercy-mission operation in El Salvador so he could donate his own rare-type blood for his 8-year-old patient.
Dr. Samuel Weinstein said he had his blood drawn, ate a Pop-Tart, returned to the operating table and watched as his blood helped the boy survive the complex surgery.
"It was a little bit surreal," Weinstein said by phone from the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, where he is chief of pediatric cardio-thoracic surgery. (Watch doctor describe how he decided to give his own blood to save patient -- 1:40)
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, Weinstein said. 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.
The American Red Cross says 2 percent of the population has B-negative blood. Only AB-negative is rarer.
On charity trips, Weinstein said, "We don't sleep a lot, we don't eat a lot, and we were working very hard, and here it was 11 o'clock at night and they hung my blood and he was getting my blood."
The patient, Francisco Calderon Anthony Fernandez of San Salvador, came off the ventilator the next day and had some lunch with Weinstein. He has since gone home from the hospital, said Weinstein.
"His mother was very happy with me and she said to me, 'Does this mean that he's going to grow up and become an American doctor?"'
Weinstein said he and most of the other health care workers give up vacation time for the trips.
"It's a real team effort," he said. "I'm getting the attention because I'm the one who gave the blood, but there wasn't anybody on the team -- I mean anybody, the nurses, the clerks -- who wouldn't have done it."
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