Sunday, August 16, 2009

da Vinci and Me

I have been touched by da Vinci but the results weren’t exactly a work of art. Looking at the big picture, however, it was a masterpiece of technology.

The da Vinci I encountered was a machine. Actually, it’s a surgery system using robotic arms. Yes, a robot cut me open and I’m glad.

Basically, the da Vinci Surgical System consists of a computer console where the surgeon sits, a three-dimensional camera that is inserted into the body and a machine with robotic arms that the surgeon programs to make delicate and precise movements that mimic his or her movements at the console.

My ovaries were da Vinci's target, particularly one sporting an abnormal growth that already had refused to surrender to a local doctor trying to remove it with minimally invasive laproscopic surgery. Concerned the little bugger might be hiding something, he took pictures, stitched me back up and referred me to a cancer specialist at Lahey Clinic outside Boston. I arrived with my ovaries intact and three new holes in my belly – but, unfortunately, no jewelry to show for my trouble.

The Lahey doctors took one look at the photos and proclaimed me an excellent candidate for robotic surgery. I considered grabbing the photos and running out of the room. Then they said my body would be tilted quite a bit throughout the surgery. This sounded like an excellent opportunity to reverse the effects of gravity – rejuvenation without plastic surgery!

I still had a few doubts, though. “What happens if the machine breaks down?” I asked.

“We have an 800-number to call,” my surgeon said.

I laughed. She didn’t. Fortunately, it never came to that.

Named after Leonardo da Vinci, who is believed to have invented the first robot, the minimally invasive da Vinci surgery is just 10 years old. There are only 900 of the computer-enhanced da Vinci systems in use in the United States – proving once again that I was on the “cutting edge.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

The da Vinci Surgical System allows surgeons to perform complex procedures with micro-instruments that are inserted into the body through tiny incisions – most just one-third to three-fourths of an inch long. This dramatically reduces blood loss and recovery time, and minimizes the amount of pressure on other organs. Guided by the camera and computer, the robotic arms also allow surgeons to safely cut where they might not have been able to do so easily before. Think about your wrist: It can't be rotated 360 degrees to reach something – but the da Vinci’s tiny instruments can.

The system's robotic arms replicate the surgeon’s movements in real time. This means the surgeon cannot program it and then step out for a cup of coffee or a game of tennis. Nor can the machine override the surgeon’s orders (Hey, let’s cut out that pesky stomach, too -- snip, snip). And, unlike the help desks for U.S. computer companies – the process can’t be operated from remote locations like India or Pakistan where people with thick accents claim their name is Bob or Melissa.

My surgery lasted over three hours, but I was allowed to go home that night with five new incisions. Three were unbelievably small. Within two days, I was back on the treadmill, albeit walking extremely slowly. The surgeon proclaimed me non-cancerous and cleared me to drive within 10 days but said heavy housework and lifting was forbidden for at least a month. (After hearing the latter, Husband No. 1 questioned whether he should have accompanied me into the doctor’s office.) Within two weeks, I was back at work. My only complaint is that my time spent defying gravity apparently wasn’t enough to reverse sagging body parts or make me look younger.

What 800-number do I call to fix that?


Karen K. said...

Glad you are well, Pat!!

patremick said...

Thanks Karen!

Cher'ley said...

So glad it wasn't cancer. That's a wonderful relief. Been there.

I'm enjoying your blog and I'm looking forward to meeting you at Crime Bake.

Pat Remick said...

Me, too!
Looking forward to meeting you, and the other Gups,too, at Crime Bake!