Robots are increasingly appearing in operating rooms and saving lives. As one patient in Canada reported in a CBC article, the famous Da Vinci surgical robot performed surgery on his tumor when no doctor had done so.
Glenn Deere tells the story of how his inoperable tumor almost cost him his life and thanks the robot that saved him.
“Sixteen years ago, I developed left tonsil cancer caused by HPV. It is the same virus that causes cervical cancer. Most people get rid of HPV without any harm, but I’ve had bad luck. The subsequent radiation made me vomit in the toilet for weeks. “I turned into an advocate for the HPV vaccine,” Dear says in a CBC op-ed, recounting his medical history.
But no doctor was willing to operate on Deer, which made his tragic situation worse. That’s when one of his doctors suggested he reach out to a medical professional who uses the Da Vinci robot. That doctor was in another province, but for the monastery, it was worth the hassle and expense of travel.
“Because removing the cancer required careful cutting of my tonsils, tongue, and larynx, Dr. Lee offered to refer me to a surgeon in Halifax who used a robot called Da Vinci. There is no da Vinci in Newfoundland or Labrador. It’s an expensive piece of equipment. The cost to Halifax is just over $8 million, Dear explained.
Deere, running out of options, agreed to the automated operation. But even with da Vinci’s help, the task proved too complicated.
“The operation took two and a half hours. It was more complicated than Dr. Corsten had anticipated. The previous radiation had hardened my tonsils; they did not retract easily. The lump on my tongue was the size of a large cherry. He also had to turn a muscle to fill a gap in my throat. I woke up With a feeding tube in my nose and a slit running along my neck, I was a cross between the Elephant Man and Frankenstein.
Despite the complications, Deere’s surgery proved successful. He is now starting to recover and is learning to speak and swallow again. He still has a long way to go, but he realizes that without Da Vinci, his condition would have been much worse.
“When I asked Dr. Corsten what the surgery would have looked like without Da Vinci, he replied, ‘In the old days, we would have cut your jaw in two.’ That’s how they got there. The image of my jaw splitting apart like a turkey’s wishbone was deeply disturbing. The radiation therapy made even tooth extraction work.” Simple is impossible. The jaw will not heal properly. “Without da Vinci, I would have had no surgical option,” Deer says.
He gave special thanks to the robot.
In the past few years, robots have made great strides in operating rooms, allowing cancer patients to recover faster, treating endometriosis, making remote eye surgery possible, and even introducing four-armed laparoscopy. In fact, when it comes to surgeries, the future is robotics.