In many ways, Josefina Ferrara was a typical candidate for aortic valve replacement. Aortic valves, particularly among the elderly, can grow stiff and calcified, preventing sufficient blood flow to the body. Josefina, normally a woman known for her high levels of activity, could no longer climb stairs, lift a pot of pasta, or visit her neighbors without enormous effort. When her family brought her to Maimonides Medical Center, recalls her daughter Catharina, “She could barely make it to the car. Her face was swollen, and we were scared.”
Cardiac surgeons at Maimonides treat many high-risk and elderly patients and have an impressive track record of successful outcomes. Using minimally invasive techniques yields additional benefits by reducing the incidence of complications and shortening recovery time. She was almost the perfect candidate.
But Josefina Ferrara and her family are Jehovah Witnesses, whose faith precludes the use of blood. She was willing to go home without a new valve rather than compromise her faith. But first her family wanted to consult with Dr. Ribakove. Could he replace an aortic valve without using blood?
After conducting tests, Dr. Ribakove agreed to replace the valve using minimally invasive surgery and other blood-saving techniques. Throughout the process, Catharina recalls, “Whenever we needed something or had a question, the nurses and the staff were ready to help. They really work together, and I can’t praise them enough.” The blood-less surgery was successful, and Josefina’s recovery was even more impressive. On her fourth day home, Catharina remembers, “She was cleaning the refrigerator! Now, after a month, she’s like a woman in her sixties.”