Jeanne's Story: A Little Help From A Robot

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Not many people would be happy to celebrate their birthday by blowing out a candle stuck in a cup of Jello. But Jeanne Painter, 68, of Piqua was fine with it. A few weeks earlier she couldn’t have taken a breath deep enough to blow out that candle.

Struggling to breathe was one of several problems that landed Jeanne in the care of L. Stewart Lowry, MD, with Miami County Surgeons. She had already seen a cardiologist and hematologist to try to pinpoint what was causing her symptoms. “I had trouble swallowing. I wanted to sleep all the time. It was really scary,” she said. Eventually Jeanne became so fatigued that she found it difficult to walk long distances. 

Numerous tests, including a barium swallow test, concluded that Jeanne had a paraesophageal hernia.

Part of her stomach had bulged into her chest. This squeezed her esophagus, making it difficult to swallow and breathe. Although paraesophageal hernias don’t always require surgery, Jeanne’s was more severe. “Dr. Lowry told me that he, with help from a robot, would surgically repair it,” she remembered. “And he assured me that I would feel better afterwards.” 

A robot? That’s when Jeanne's fears turned to curiosity. 

“I asked Dr. Lowry plenty of questions. He was so patient, answering every one of them,” she recalled. When she asked to see her hernia on the X-ray, “Dr. Lowry took his time explaining exactly what he and the robot would do. Never once did he look at his watch to hurry me along. I liked that!”

Bright and early on September 15, 2017, Jeanne and the robot came face-to-face at Upper Valley Medical Center. Dr. Lowry expertly guided the robot’s arms to repair Jeanne's hernia. He returned her stomach to its proper location, and used mesh to repair the hernia so the stomach would stay where it belonged. 

After spending one night in the hospital, Jeanne was thrilled to be back home with her family and her beloved dog. Although Dr. Lowry advised her to take a few weeks off work, “I felt so good after just one week, I went back.” But by the end of the week, Jeanne said, “I was so whipped, I knew it had been a mistake!” That’s when she committed to taking more time off. “It was hard to stay home, but I knew I needed the rest and was happy that I did.” 

Months later, Jeanne feels great. She is especially grateful that, thanks to the robot, her procedure was completed without breaking her sternum. Only the scars from five tiny incisions remain. And she is happy to be back eating solid foods. “I’ll be eating chocolate cake for my next birthday!” she laughed.