MedWatch: The da Vinci Robot

Certain heart surgeries are changing at Munson Medical Center with the help of a robot.

The two hands of a doctor are now able to operate with four hands and a camera, and it’s making recovery much easier for some patients.

Michelle Dunaway introduces us to a woman who went through it in this week’s MedWatch report.

Ronie Williams won’t soon forget the day her heart took her down.

“I collapsed on the floor. I couldn’t breathe, I was having a hard time, I was full of sweat,” explained Ronie.

A few hours later, doctors determined what the problem was.

“A torn valve and a heart murmur. I was in the hospital three days,” said Ronie.

But that wasn’t going to be her only hospital stay. Doctors needed to fix her valve, something Ronie wasn’t ready to hear.

“Honestly, when he got to the point of saying he would have to deflate my lung and stop my heart, I didn’t know anything from there on,” explained Ronie.

But what she would later learn is that her doctor at Munson Medical Center, cardiothoracic surgeon Bobby Kong, is the only physician in Northern Michigan doing heart surgery with the help of the da Vinci robot.

“They have these arms that are only like 2-3 cm. in size, much smaller than my hands. Then you can make a smaller incision and insert the small arms inside the body cavity, and then put the robotic lens camera inside the body, and you can see inside very well,” explained Dr. Kong.

The da Vinci was originally designed for heart surgery, but Dr. Kong says it wasn’t perfect when the technology came out.

“Heart surgery turned out to be one of the most challenging operations for the robot to do. Instead of that, it succeeded and excelled in prostate surgery, GYN, also general surgery, hernia repair, things like that,” said Dr. Kong.

But today, after a lot of time and training, the robot is now succeeding in making many heart surgeries a lot less invasive.

“The incision is a lot more cosmetic for one thing, and it’s smaller and the risk of would infection would be less and the pain would be less, too. And because the trauma to the body is less, the recovery for those patients is a bit faster,” explained Dr. Kong.

Ronie said, “Recovery was great. I was out of the hospital in five days. I took my pain med for three days and I was fine.”

Today she’s a non-smoker, she’s back to work and enjoying the important things in life.

“I take care of my grandson while momma works, so I spent a lot of time with him and family. It scared me, it really did, because you didn’t know. You never know when this is going to happen and you take every day not for granted, and do what I can every day to be happy,” said Ronie.

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