This was the least painful surgery you could have.

James Dean, Patient

Only six days after having prostate surgery, James “Jim”, Dean attended a May 2, 2008 open house at Bronson Methodist Hospital to see the da Vinci® Surgical System.

Jim had a prostatectomy to treat his prostate cancer using the da Vinci.
“It’s really magic,” Jim says of the da Vinci, a robotic- and computer-assisted platform for minimally invasive surgery. “When you sit down and put your eyes in the viewfinder, the machine turns itself on. You put your fingers in little squeezers and when you open and close your fingers, the surgical instrument opens and closes. You can turn your wrist and the instruments you’re using completely turn.”

Jim is equally impressed with the results of his surgery. His past surgeries include knee and shoulder repairs, both performed through open procedures that left large scars, required extensive rehabilitation and involved significant pain. With the da Vinci, surgery is performed through small incisions that replace the large incisions needed for conventional open surgeries. As a result, patients have shorter hospital stays, less pain and a faster recovery. Bronson is the only hospital in Kalamazoo to offer this technology.

Jim’s surgery took four hours. After a two-day hospital stay, he was released to recuperate at home. “It was surgery, there’s no getting around that,” Jim says. “But about the most I can say was it was bothersome.” In fact some of the most pronounced pain he experienced was discomfort in his shoulders because he was secured to the surgical surface there. That pain went away within a day. “This was the least painful surgery you could have,” says Jim. “This is not what I consider cancer.”

Prostate cancer is typically slow growing. When caught and treated in its earliest stages, the prognosis and long-term survival rate are excellent. Like many men, Jim had no symptoms. He says regular checkups that included measuring his PSA levels saved his life. Prostate-specific antigen or PSA is a substance produced by the prostate. Increases in PSA levels over time may indicate the presence of cancer.

After Jim’s PSA levels had increased, his primary care doctor referred him to Robert Isacksen, MD, with HealthCare Midwest Urology and The Continence Center for follow-up. Dr. Isacksen performed additional testing, which resulted in Jim’s cancer diagnosis. Based on his health and age – Jim is 64 – Dr. Isacksen recommended robotic-assisted surgery as one of the treatment options. Dr. Isacksen performed the procedure. It was the least invasive option and offered Jim a relatively short recovery time and the ability to return to normal activities more quickly than other options. In fact, research shows that urinary and sexual function return to normal sooner with da Vinci prostatectomy compared to open surgery and conventional laparoscopic surgery.

“Within 12 hours they have you standing,” Jim says. “That day they have you doing laps around the unit. Still, when I walked in to the open house less than a week later they were a little awestruck.”