My Robotic Surgery Experience

I hesitated about writing on something as personal as a major surgical procedure but thought that my experience could possibly help a lot of women looking for alternative procedures to remove a bothersome uterine myoma.  This post might be long so unless you’re a female or know of anyone who might be having this problem and can’t decide what to do, then you’re better off not reading this.

My growth was discovered around three years ago, when it was still about 5cm in circumference.  But because it didn’t really bother me at that time, I paid no attention to it especially as I read somewhere that growths like this are 99% benign. However, between that period and early January of this year, my myoma steadily grew and brought problems such that I had to undergo a D&C with blood transfusion plus another stay in the hospital three months ago for another four bags of blood when my hemoglobin count dropped to 5.6.  I also got myself injected with Luprolex to stop bleeding in October and November last year, while I thought about the inevitable operation and at the same time, prepared my body for surgery.

I was scared of open surgery, remembering my recovery time after a forced C-section to deliver my daughter 11 years ago.  More than that, I didn’t know how fast my body can heal this time, as I am older now.  I also have work scheduled a month after the surgery, plus long-distance travel two months post-op.  And so, I did a lot of online research for alternatives to open surgery and stumbled upon the da Vinci Robotic surgery option. Fortunately, one such machine is available at St. Luke’s Bonifacio Global City.  The doctor does hand movements on a console with a 10x magnified view of my insides, while the robotic arms inside the body mimic the doctor’s hand movements.

It took awhile to schedule an appointment with one of the only two local doctors listed in the da Vinci Surgery website.  By the time I met with her, I had done all possible research I could online and have already made up my mind that I would go for this option.  Compared to open surgery, this minimally invasive procedure involves 3-4 cuts between 1.5- 2cm. in size, less blood loss, less risk and faster recovery.  In the US, I read patients’ stories about getting out of the hospital the same day as the surgery, or the following day.  Of course, nothing is guaranteed but the more I read about the da Vinci Robotic surgery, the more I became convinced that this is the right option for me.  What’s left for me to find out is whether I am a good candidate for it and whether I can afford the procedure.

dvs_hd_surgeon450Photo credit : http://www.intuitivesurgical.com/products/davinci_surgical_system/davinci_surgical_system_s/

After going through my history and examining me, I was told I am eligible for the procedure.  I spent the two weeks after the initial consultation on other tests and clearances needed for surgery, plus another follow-up session with my OB-Gyn to go over my test results and questions I needed to be reassured on.  Finally, we were able to schedule the procedure on February 8 at 4pm.  A few days before the operation, I cleaned my house thoroughly, did the grocery for two weeks, and went thru financial documents with my partner.  The night before, I changed my bed sheets, and packed a small bag with toiletries, sanitary pads, a towel, a going-home outfit, oversized underwear and my laptop.

I checked in at the hospital on the morning of the procedure.  Immediately, I was put on bowel prep and started fasting at 8am.  Because I had a lot of help online, particularly thru http://www.hystersisters.com, I knew not to eat heavy and difficult-to-digest-food a few days before the operation. Before the IV was put in, I was also able to bathe myself using the special wash provided by the hospital (forgot what it’s called!). I also didn’t have a hard time waiting for my 2pm wheel-in to the pre-operating room, and a few minutes before that, my partner, daughter and I gathered in prayer for a successful operation.

With compression socks worn, everything was set for the 4pm schedule.  But the doctor was late, the nurses said she might have been caught up in an emergency delivery as she had patients due to give birth that week.  This time, I grew impatient as I wanted to have it done and over with, so I could go back to my room around 10am.  Fortunately, I had two nurses, and unlike the regular floors, the care here is 2 nurses to 1 patient, and they kept on checking on me and updating me with the arrival of the surgical team. I don’t know what time it was when they finally said my doctor has arrived and we have to move to the main operating room. As soon as I entered the OR, all I could say was it just seems I am in a movie set (as that was how it looked to me), with bright overhead lights and lots of machines inside, including that plastic-covered da Vinci Robot.  The last thing I remembered about going inside the room was transferring to a narrower bed and reminding the doctor to keep my ovaries.

I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room. Unlike my C-section experience when I woke up shivering in a dark, recovery room at Makati Med, it was bright this time and I woke up seeing the nurse beside my bed.  I was relieved because aside from the procedure, I was actually scared to wake up alone in the recovery room. I was told the surgery took 5 1/2 hours. At 2am, Sunday, they finally brought me back to my room and I was happy to see my family. Then my partner showed me a picture of what the doctor got from my body and it’s so gross I won’t even put it up here.  I remember saying it looks like it weighs a kilo and am glad to lose that weight! Then I asked that my hospital gown be lifted and wonder of wonders, I only had four, very small bandages on my tummy! No need for oversized panties, a regular bikini would do!

On Sunday, the first day after surgery (or I’d say a few hours after surgery), I was asked to move from side to side in order to help me pass gas.  There was no pain at all from the stitches, although they still had me on pain relievers via IV.  I was also with a catheter.  The discomfort came from a hugely distended belly, as they had to pump gas into my stomach during the operation.  It felt heavy, hard to the touch, making my movements difficult.  Towards the afternoon, I was able to sit beside the bed, stand up and walk a few steps, and started burping.  But although I was cleared to eat regular meals after the surgery, I wasn’t really eating, but was sipping lots of water.

Monday lunchtime, they took out the catheter and the IV.  Two hours after, I went to the toilet to pee, still assisted.  Then I started walking longer, pacing the entire length of the room numerous times.  By late afternoon, I started to pass gas.  By nighttime, I was able to go to the bathroom unassisted.  I was still taking pain relievers orally.  Two days post-op, I felt like I was 7 months pregnant, tummy still big and filled with gas.  But I was walking straight, not hunched over.

Tuesday morning, I had the appetite to eat the arroz a la cubana meal the hospital served.  I dressed up to go home, and packed my things for an 11am check out.  Doctor came in, change my dressing, and we took pictures of my very small incisions.  Leaving the room, I sat on a wheelchair to go to lunch at Cafe Via Mare at the ground floor, and walked from the entrance to a table way deep inside the restaurant.  The ride back home was uneventful, except I took the time to get into my seat and had to support my tummy when we ran into potholes and humps as I wasn’t wearing an abdominal binder.  Arriving home, I had an easy time going up a flight of stairs to my unit, plus another flight of stairs to my bedroom.  I went down again to have dinner. Tuesday was also the last day I took a pain reliever.

Fourth day post-op, I cooked dinner. And did some work online.

Fifth day post-op, I added washing dishes to my list.

Sixth day post-op, I watched a concert at the PICC. The walk from the driveway to the concert hall, and back all the way to the parking across the street, was of considerable distance. Towards the end of the concert, I was up on my feet, dancing as light as I can. Okay, okay, that wasn’t really my kind of dancing!

Seventh day post-op, I watched the opening of the PI Jazzfest at the Bonifacio High Street, restraining myself hard not to join the Escola de Samba de Manila dancers and the Guarana band.

Eight day post-op, I was up on my feet for five hours, covering two floors of the SMX Convention Center, looking for good deals at The Philippine Travel Mart.

Ninth day post-op, I went back to my doctor for a check up.  She took out my bandages, didn’t cover them again as they were healed and completely dry.  She gave me clearance to drive and travel, but no lifting of heavy objects above 20 lbs.  Eight weeks post surgery, she said I could do whatever I want, however strenuous the activity is.

It’s been almost two weeks after my surgery and if not for the tiny incisions, I could easily forget that I had undergone this procedure.  In fact, I’m almost sure the scars will all be gone in a month or two! I think this is the downside, feeling strong enough a few days after the surgery that one might think she can go back right away to a regular schedule.  I’m not pushing it though but believe me, my post-surgery experience with the Da Vinci robot is far more pleasant and the recovery, quicker.  Making the decision was a matter of deciding on cost versus peace of mind and faster recovery.  How much?  Be prepared to spend a little over half a million pesos.  But it’s really worth it.

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7 thoughts on “My Robotic Surgery Experience

  1. Hi, thank you for posting your story online. It’s a great insight for those going through the same experience. I’d like to ask how long did the whole thing take including the check up, pre operation, the operation and the time you were discharged from the hospital? Also, did it cost approximately 600k pesos at St lukes?

    1. Hi Allyana. I did a lot of research online and my mind was like 90% made up about the robotic surgery even before I consulted the robotic surgeon. The first meeting with her was to get assurance that this is indeed the way to go for me. The second time I saw her, I asked to be scheduled already. If memory serves me right, I had to wait about two-three weeks for the DaVinci’s availability and I used that time to do all my medical prework and to increase my hemoglobin count. Pre-op – I was wheeled in at 2pm for a 5pm schedule, but my doctor got called in for a delivery, so I think we were delayed by 2-3 hours. Surgery was 5.5 hours. I was discharged two and a half days after the operation, could’ve been earlier, except my package was for a 4 day stay (Sat-Tues). Total cost was P520k.

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