Teresa Brautigam, da Vinci Robotic Surgery, Fibroids

For Teresa, robotic surgery ensures a timely graduation

Teresa Brautigam was just about to enter her last semester at southwestern michigan college in pursuit of an associate of arts degree when she began feeling what she assumed were the symptoms of menopause.

“I thought the fatigue, weight gain, discomfort and bleeding were all the normal result of aging,” said the 46-year-old mother of four. “And at first my doctor also thought it was the start of menopause. But a further exam indicated thatI had an enlarged uterus. An ultra- sound showed the problem—a large fibroid tumor.”

Teresa, who lives in Decatur, was referred to Borgess Women’s Health where she met with Dr. Jennifer Frink, an OB/GYN. “Dr. Frink went over my options and I decided to have a hysterectomy because that was the only option that addresses both the pain and bleeding,” Teresa said.

There was another factor at work, however, that played a role in her ultimate decision: She didn’t wantto take extended time away from her last semester at college to recover from surgery. And for that, Dr. Frink,a specialist in treating abnormal uterine bleeding, offered a unique, minimally invasive procedure that links her skilled surgeon’s hands with a multi- armed robot. Called the da Vinci Surgical System, the computer-aided device allows the surgeon to sit at a console that provides a high-definition, three-dimensional and magnified view of the surgery with the patient nearby.

All the tools necessary to complete the surgery can be inserted through one-third-inch incisions, reducing blood loss, scarring, risk for infection and pain, making for a much quicker recovery than with traditional surgery.
“I absolutely prefer da Vinci to traditional surgery, no question,”Dr. Frink said. “It’s safer and more accurate than any other surgery for intra-abdominal procedures. I prefer the visualization and precise nature of the tiny instruments. You can work in tight places where you can’t get your hands in an open surgery.”

The three-dimensional da Vinci images are better than laprascopic surgery, which provides a two-dimensional image, she said. And the computer ensures small, controlled movements that even the best surgeons cannot always duplicate in open surgeries.
“I had the surgery on January 18 at Borgess,” Teresa said. “I remember being rolled into the operating room and seeing the machine and all those arms. I don’t remember anything after that,” she said. “When it was over I had five tiny incisions in my abdomen. There was some discomfort at first but I was fine after that.”

She was kept in Borgess overnight and was home the next day. As with any abdominal surgery, Teresa had to be careful for some time. She had to limit the number of times she climbed the stairs at home and was told not to lift anything that weighed more than 10 pounds. “I had to keep reminding myself about the 10-pound limit,” she said. “A gallon of milk alone weighs eight pounds.”

Even though Dr. Frink advised her to take time off, Teresa returned to work at Hickory & Oak Sawmill and Lumber Company and college a week after the surgery intent on finishing the semester on time. “She just told me to make sure that my backpack had wheels and didn’t weigh more than 10 pounds,” Teresa said. “I was a little tired and a little sore and would have liked to have taken the recommended four to six weeks off, but life is not always what you prefer.”

Five weeks after the surgery Teresa was given a clean bill of health.

“I feel great,” she said, “and I’m ready to start running again. I had been running with my husband Jason but quit when I was feeling tired and sluggish.” Jason is a Michigan Army National Guard Readiness NCO for the FSC 1-119 FA.
Teresa said that while she spent very little time in the hospital, she was impressed with the care provided by nurses and other staff. “The meal plan was really nice,” she said. “It’s like ordering room service.”

Minimally invasive hysterectomyis just one of the many applications for the da Vinci Robotic Surgery System at Borgess. Nearly a dozen surgeons on-staff have received da Vinci specialized training and offer many other minimally invasive treatments to area patients. These treatments include prostate surgery, kidney surgery, fibroid treatment and removal, and thoracic surgery. To learn more, visit davinci.borgess.com.