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Transfusion-Free Cardiothoracic Surgery

Rayito Barajas' Story: Worthy of Celebration

Rayito S. Barajas of Baldwin Park, Calif., is 77 but has the spirit and energy of a 20 year-old. On January 7, 2001, she marked her 61st wedding anniversary with her 90-year-old husband. She raised six children, and has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Rayito makes wedding cakes for a living, and in her spare time she paints portraits and landscapes and travels.

It's not surprising that Rayito was puzzled five years ago when she began feeling tired. She had just returned from a trip to Jerusalem, and decided to see her physician. Over the next several weeks, her physician detected a heart murmur that was getting worse. A cardiologist later diagnosed a bad aortic valve and told her she would need a valve replacement.

"I had never been sick a day in my life," notes Rayito. "I have always been a healthy woman. So I was shocked when I found out I needed major heart surgery." Rayito had another challenge - because of her religious beliefs she needed to find a program that could perform transfusion-free procedures. Fortunately, her primary care physician knew about the USC Transfusion-Free Medicine and Surgery Program.

Chris Gaudino, R.N., nurse coordinator for cardiothoracic surgery at Keck Hospital of USC, arranged for Rayito's preoperative medication called Epogen. Epogen is similar to the naturally produced erythropoietin, which is produced by the kidneys and stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells.

Rayito sailed through the operation and a week later returned home. "I was supposed to stay at the hospital for seven days, and I was discharged in five."

Rayito thanked the Keck Hospital of USC surgical team in the way she knew best. She baked them a multi-tiered cake-half-chocolate, half-pineapple, with whipped cream. "It was the least I could do," she says smiling.


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