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Pelvic Pain, Robotic Surgery

Sandi Chadwick 620

Documented: May 2012

If a "renaissance man" defines a man proficient in more than one area of interest or expertise, then Sandi Joy Chadwick is a "renaissance woman." Sandi is a comedian, inspirational speaker, worship leader and helps patients choose the right glasses in an optometrist's office. Sandi is also a wife and the mother of a 16-year-old daughter in high school along with a 20-year-old daughter who has recently spread her wings by moving to Italy.

Sandi has never been hesitant about living life to the fullest and doing whatever it takes to make things happen. Nor is she shy about inspiring other people to do the same. When Sandi found out there was a surgical option for an extremely painful condition caused by uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths in her uterus, she was excited to hear that she was a perfect candidate for da Vinci robotic surgery. Prior to her diagnosis, Sandi had assumed the intense pain and cramping she felt was just an unwelcome part of aging. She was pleased to find out that the problem could be addressed through such advanced technology. After having the surgery, she is now very quick to recommend it.

Sandi's initial reaction to the idea of robot-assisted surgery was to think... "Robots, how cool is that?" She then sat down and watched an entire DVD about the da Vinci system, which was supplied by her surgeon Christina Ellis, MD, Ob/Gyn. Sandi learned that robotic-assisted surgery is performed through the smallest of incisions. She learned about the benefits it offers over open surgery and even laparoscopic surgical techniques, like significantly less pain, a shorter hospital stay, a faster return to normal daily activities as well as the potential for a better clinical outcome.

"I have to admit that, at first, I was skeptical, thinking 'oh sure it's going to be that simple... sure it's going to be that pain free.... sure the incisions are going to be that small.' But it all made a lot of sense," says Sandi. "It actually makes perfect sense that the procedure would result in better healing because it is so much less invasive and so precise. I quickly realized that robot-assisted surgery was definitely the way to go."

Sandi remembers when a relative had a traditional open hysterectomy many years ago and ended up experiencing serious complications. She suffered from an infection following surgery and almost died. "It was a really long recovery. It took forever for her to get her stamina back up," Sandi recalls. "I didn't want to ever go through that myself."

Two of Sandi's friends suggested that she see Dr. Ellis. Neither had experienced robot-assisted surgery, but both had excellent outcomes thanks to laparoscopic procedures under Dr. Ellis' care. Sandi knew a little bit about robotic surgery; however, she was surprised to hear that it was an option in her case. She didn't realize the advanced technology could be utilized for her surgical scenario.

"My experience with robot-assisted surgery was really great, from start to finish. I went to sleep, woke up and it was all over... like nothing much had even happened," she says. "I expected to have pain immediately afterwards and had kind of braced myself for it, but I wasn't in any pain when I woke up. I can honestly say it was no big deal. There was never a point where I felt anything was intolerable."

Sandi's surgery was performed on a Thursday. She was up and walking the next morning and went home that day. By Sunday, she had stopped taking any prescribed pain medication. "I'd take ibuprofen, but probably could have done without it. After two weeks I wasn't even taking that, since I had no discomfort at all," she says. "The hardest part was that I tired pretty quickly for a while, because of what my body had been through. It was surgery after all." Sandi found her fatigue was most obvious when she forgot to hold back and "overdid it," which was very easy to do because she felt "that good" following surgery.

With surgery that was 100 percent successful, Sandi no longer has the pain that had been plaguing her for so long. "My condition was definitely interrupting my life. I couldn't always do the things I wanted to do or be the person I wanted to be. I couldn't sleep. I had to use the restroom frequently because the fibroids were pressing on my bladder," she explains. "It was very limiting. Life should be about living fully... about being spontaneous, having fun and sharing positive moments with other people. My surgery opened that door a lot wider for me."

Sandi wants to share her positive story so other people can be encouraged and not be fearful about undergoing robotic surgery. But, she wants people to keep in mind that there is no "real robot" involved, not like the ones you see in the movies. "We are not talking about artificial intelligence or science fiction special effects. Forget about Star Wars or Lost in Space. The surgeon is doing all the work here," Sandi deadpans with a bit of friendly jabbing in her voice. "This is about a better way to get the job done. It's about the latest and greatest technology available to surgeons today. Robotic-assisted surgery is the future, my friends. Welcome aboard!"

By Beth Eburn

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