PATIENT STORY

Jason McMurtrie, Diagnosed with Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer, Seeks Bloodless Surgery Expertise

Jason and Amber McMurtrie

Jason McMurtrie, a 47-year-old airport facility manager, and his wife, Amber, love to travel — they split their time between Pennsylvania and the island of Grenada. In the fall of 2017, McMurtrie received news that threw his life off course: He was diagnosed with a rare malignancy called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, and he needed surgery to remove it.

“The first surgeon I saw, in Pittsburgh, said he always kept blood available for use in the operating room, but would make an exception for me,” McMurtrie says. “I wanted to have surgery where blood is not considered an option.”

This past spring, research and the recommendation of a friend led the McMurtries to the Institute for Patient Blood Management and Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Englewood Health and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor expert Steven Brower, MD, chief of surgical oncology and hepatobiliary surgery. Dr. Brower is also the medical director of The Lefcourt Family Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center at Englewood Health. Surgery on the pancreas is difficult to begin with, Dr. Brower says, but McMurtrie’s tumor resided in an especially tricky spot — in the center of the organ atop a large artery and vein.

“With our radiologists’ help, we mapped out a laparoscopic operation that could remove the growth and leave a normal, functioning pancreas instead of having to remove half or two-thirds of the organ,” Dr. Brower says. “Removing that much of the pancreas would have increased Jason’s risk of hormonal or digestive dysfunction.”

McMurtrie was nervous about the surgery but ready to have it. “My anxiety stemmed from the thought of having my first major surgery,” he says. “I spoke with Dr. Brower and his team about how I was feeling, and they were very caring. They sent an email of encouragement and confidence to let me know I was in good hands.”

In September of 2018, Dr. Brower removed the tumor through several small incisions in McMurtrie’s abdomen. The surgery went off without a hitch. McMurtrie didn’t lose any blood, and the operating team did not have to perform an autotransfusion — recycling of a patient’s blood back to him or her using a closed circuit — as they had prepared to do. After four nights in the hospital, he returned home to Pennsylvania. With the tumor gone, his future is bright.

“Going forward, I’ll have a few more checkups, but Dr. Brower feels confident that chapter of my life is closed,” McMurtrie says. “That makes me happy.”

Posted January 4, 2019