Unique Treatment Crafted for Multiple Myeloma Patient

Muhamed Baljevic, MD, is seen with patient Vincenzo Neri. Dr. Baljevic and his team were able to respect his religious beliefs and perform a bloodless stem cell transplant.

For the first time at Nebraska Medicine, a bloodless stem cell transplant has been performed on a Jehovah’s Witness.

“I’m surprised, excited, relieved and thankful they respected my beliefs and I congratulate them for helping me through this difficult time.”

Vincenzo Neri was diagnosed with ultra-high risk multiple myeloma and needed an autologous stem cell transplant to survive. Autologous transplantation is a process where the patient’s own stem cells are collected and reinfused. During the transplant process, most patients depend on red blood cells and platelets to protect themselves against infection, bleeding and organ failure. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in accepting any blood products, so Neri’s case was more difficult in many ways.

“He can’t get any of the red blood cells or platelets – normally, every patient depends on these products during the transplant process because red blood cells can go very low and platelets can go very low,” says Muhamed Baljevic, MD, multiple myeloma specialist. “However, we cannot depend on these blood products in this patient’s case because he’s a Jehovah’s Witness and his religious beliefs don’t allow him to accept any blood products.”

Through sign language interpreters, Dr. Baljevic explained in detail how Neri’s transplantation would work.

“We modified almost every single step in the transplantation process for him and his needs,” says Dr. Baljevic. “We had these plans in place where we used particular medicines, to try to prevent him from bleeding, where we stimulated his own bone marrow with stimulating medicine and building blocks for red blood cells as much as we could – such that we avoided all together the need for any blood products.”

Neri’s recovery went extremely well and he was discharged one week earlier than expected. Only a few health systems across the country perform stem cell transplants on Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nebraska Medicine is now one of them.

“In looking back when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I went down quickly, but now I feel freedom – the sick body is gone – I feel healthy again, active to do anything – makes me feel built up and excited,” says Neri. “Everyone here respected my religion and I’m impressed that everyone was respectful of my faith.”

“We hope other patients, who share same believes, other Jehovah’s Witnesses, or patients who cannot get blood products, know that we are very committed to provide top quality care, multidisciplinary care and care that can meet the biggest challenges of modern medicine – and this is certainly one of them,” says Dr. Baljevic.

Watch more of this amazing story in this video below.

 

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Nebraska Medicine, call +1-402-559-3090 or OIHS@nebraskamed.com.

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