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Patient Stories

Crystal Legg
A Very Rare Disease: Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
Meets a Unique Bloodless Challenge


Imagine suffering day-in and day-out with constant abdominal pain. You cannot eat any more food than the size of your fist, and this agonizing pain causes you to vomit whatever you do manage to swallow. Years pass and you get no satisfying answers to your medical questions. This was the plight that Crystal Legg, 26, of Lakeland, Florida had to deal with for seven years. After being diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crystal just accepted that this was how she was going to feel every day. These “stomach attacks,” as Crystal called them, would bring her to her knees. When these episodes occurred, Crystal had to physically lie down from the pain—even if this meant lying on the floor of a restaurant, shopping mall, or public bathroom. Slowly, however, these symptoms changed from a daily occurrence to a medical emergency.

“I was in terrible, excruciating pain. My stomach swelled like I was pregnant and my meals were getting smaller and smaller. I kept vomiting and was losing weight. I couldn’t work, and spent my days going from one doctor visit to the next,” recalls Crystal.

Crystal knew these symptoms were too severe to simply be IBS. To complicate things further, she had no real diagnosis. Finally, after seeing several doctors and after dozens and dozens of tests, a doctor in Tampa, Florida diagnosed Crystal with Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome (SMA). This rare disease causes an obstruction of the intestines, so rare that only 400 cases of SMA have been reported since the late 1800s. The doctor explained that this condition required surgery—a procedure in which Crystal’s abdomen would be fully opened during the operation and high amounts of blood loss would be inevitable. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Crystal’s primary concern was upholding her Biblical belief in the sanctity of blood. She knew she couldn’t choose just any doctor to perform this intense surgery and chance putting her beliefs, and health, in jeopardy. Crystal may have had a diagnosis and doctors who were willing to try the surgery, but she knew that wasn’t enough. She needed a team of doctors who would perform the surgery and respect her beliefs.

Relatives in West Virginia soon came to Crystal’s aid with good news—they had read about a New Jersey hospital known for its reputation of excellence in bloodless surgery. Crystal knew right away that this was an answer to her prayers and that her search was over. She came in contact with Dr. Ibrahim M. Ibrahim, Chief of Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. Right away Crystal knew something was different about this doctor. He called her directly and seemed genuinely concerned about her condition and promised to respect her beliefs on blood. He was ready to get started immediately.

On Monday, November 17, 2006, Englewood Hospital arranged for Crystal’s medical records to be over-nighted to them. On the 20th, Dr. Ibrahim consulted with Crystal via telephone, and by the 21st, she was on a plane bound for New Jersey. After years of suffering from this terrible disease, one phone call was about to start the process that would change this young woman’s life forever. Crystal arrived at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and was treated with the respect and dignity she was looking for. “Within the first few minutes of being admitted, they gave me a bright red bracelet that said ‘No Blood.’ I was so proud! I had never received such treatment like that before,” explains Crystal. “The staff was so positive about my decision and beliefs.” She knew she had made the right decision.

On November 22nd, 2006 — less than one week after getting at in contact with Englewood Hospital— Dr. Ibrahim performed a duodenojejunostomy on Crystal. Using five incisions, each only a few millimeters long, he was able to do a minimally invasive, bloodless procedure to relieve Crystal’s pain. This complicated procedure was no easy task and was only made possible by the techniques pioneered by the Bloodless Center and Dr. Ibrahim’s precise surgical skill. “Anyone who needs any sort of surgery should go to Englewood Hospital,” states Crystal. “I knew my decision would be respected and afterwards I felt so much better, even spiritually uplifted, by all the friends and positive support of every- one at the hospital.”

Since the surgery, Crystal has not had any “stomach attacks” and is enjoying all the simple things again, like meals with friends and the relief of knowing the debilitating pain will not suddenly appear. The only change in her lifestyle now is “getting used to feeling good” and Crystal knows she has Dr. Ibrahim, the entire bloodless team, and the staff at Englewood Hospital, to thank for this amazing outcome, along with her strong faith to keep searching for the right place to give her dignity, respect and superior medical care.