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Isabel Arana – Splenectomy Patient Success Story

Peace of mind

When low platelet counts put Isabel Arana’s immune system at risk, Methodist Charlton found a solution

Isabel Arana Isabel Arana is feeling much better now
that his platelet count is where it should
be. Thanks to Methodist Charlton, he’s
confident everything is okay.

A routine checkup gets the credit for discovering that Isabel Arana’s platelet count had gotten low. Too low.

“I didn’t have any symptoms, but the doctor told me I needed at least 100,000 platelets to survive,” Arana says. “I had 10,000.”

Platelets are tiny blood cells. They help wounds heal and prevent bleeding by forming blood clots. A low platelet count like Arana’s increases the risk of spontaneous bleeding.

Steroids helped increase Arana’s platelet count, but when doctors tried lowering the steroid dosage, Arana’s platelet count decreased as well.

Revathi Angitapalli, MD, oncology/hematology specialist, determined that the spleen was the source of the abnormal platelet count and referred Arana to general surgeon Frank Vittimberga, MD, FACS. Both Drs. Angitapalli and Vittimberga are independently practicing physicians on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center.

Less pain, quick recovery

undefinedNormally, the spleen helps maintain a healthy immune system, but Dr. Vittimberga says that in Arana’s case, an autoimmune disorder was causing the spleen to remove platelets that contained needed antibodies.

“Steroids sometimes help correct a low platelet count, but because of the side effects of long-term steroid use, removing the spleen — or a splenectomy — was a better option for him,” Dr. Vittimberga says.

Splenectomy is done using a minimally invasive technique, meaning an instrument with a tiny camera and light on one end allows the surgeon to see the area via a small incision (laparoscopy). Patients typically recover more quickly from laparoscopic procedures and have less pain.

Communication and comfort

The splenectomy was Arana’s first surgery, and he was impressed with the care he received at Methodist Charlton.

“The staff gave me everything I needed to make my stay comfortable before I even asked,” Arana says. “That was very important to me.” Arana adds that Dr. Vittimberga, who is also chief medical officer at Methodist Charlton, explained what he should expect before, during, and after surgery.

“That made me feel good and feel like everything would be okay,” Arana says. “It gave me peace of mind.”

Also giving him peace of mind is his back-to-normal platelet count.

“I thank God for this surgery,” Arana says. “I am so happy and so grateful.”

From the summer 2013 edition of Shine magazine.