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The Institute for Patient Blood Management and Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Englewood Hospital
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Patient Stories

Bertha Sallee Story
“If I really want to, I can do somersaults now!”



Chronic back-pain affects millions of people worldwide.  Many just accept this as a part of life.  Sometimes the pain graduates from a mere inconvenience to an overwhelming struggle.  This was the case with Bertha Sallee, 64, of Illinois.

Bertha was struggling with chronic, excruciating back pain for 5 years.  Being a caretaker for her mother and great aunt really put pressure on her back.  Eventually, her body had had enough and started to break down. 

 “I couldn’t walk and I didn’t even realize I had become hunched over.  I couldn’t do anything without holding onto or leaning on something,” she recalls.

Bertha was distressed.  This crippling pain stopped her from enjoying life.  Simple tasks she used to do with ease were now impossible to do without terrible pain, if she could do them at all. 

 “I tried everything: acupuncture, massages, went to a chiropractor.  Nothing helped.”

She was ready to enroll herself into a facility to undergo a risky and experimental back procedure in Texas. The surgery would cost $30,000 and was not covered by insurance, but Bertha was desperate.

Then she heard about the Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Institute at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and decided to give them a call.  As soon as she spoke to the Bloodless staff, something clicked.  She was instructed to overnight her records and x-rays.  “Twenty minutes after they received the x-rays I sent, I had an answer and a phone call from a doctor!”

Bertha’s x-rays and medical information was sent to Abe Steinberger, MD of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and he readily accepted her case.  Her situation was unique and somewhat complicated. Bertha is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and therefore does not accept blood transfusions. But she knew she was in good hands when she spoke to Dr. Steinberger.  He explained that he has performed hundreds of extremely complicated brain and spine surgeries without giving patients blood transfusions.

“He called me directly at home and said, ‘Can you come see me?  We’ll take real good care of you.’  I felt so confident that they could help me.   I wasn’t even nervous. Once he called, I no longer had any worries.’”

She quickly made arrangements to come to New Jersey and meet with Dr. Steinberger in person.  He wasted no time in seeing her and after an examination he explained that she would need a procedure called ‘spinal fusion.’  Spinal fusion involves permanently welding two or more vertebrae together and is only used in extreme cases of back pain.

The team at The New Jersey Institute for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Englewood Hospital sat down with Bertha and explained to her all her options.  They went over what procedures her conscience would allow her to use, and which ones it would not.

“They were so wonderful and kind and they answered all my questions.  I was so amazed how they explained everything about bloodless medicine…I felt at ease.  They assured me that no blood was going to be given and that is why I felt so comfortable…When the surgery was underway, it was worse than the doctors had originally thought.  I needed spinal fusion done as well as screws and two rods implanted—all done without a blood transfusion.”

 To the amazement of Bertha’s friends and family, she felt great the next day!  She enrolled into two weeks of rehabilitation in New Jersey and then continued her rehab in Illinois.  She reports no problems whatsoever.

“It’s like I didn’t even have any back pain or surgery!  It has improved my quality of life. If I really want to, I can do somersaults now!  The arrangement that Englewood Hospital has [for bloodless patients] is fantastic.  It made me feel so confident and relaxed.  I still can’t believe it!  I can’t believe I ever had a back problem!”