Rick Hernandez was diagnosed with colon cancer in May 2017. Days later, a CAT scan revealed a cancerous tumor on his right kidney. Immediately, he began thinking about how tedious surgery and recovery would be -- times two.
“I have been healthy all my life, but cancer runs in my family,” says Rick, who even with his history “didn’t see this coming.”
Rick, CEO for Community Cares Ministries in Wamego, pastor at New Life Wamego Church and an on-call chaplain at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, says he couldn’t bear the thought of two separate surgeries.
Fortunately, his surgeon Hank Doering, MD, and urologist Laki Evangelidis, MD, had a simple solution: Perform the surgeries back-to-back using the da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System, which requires only a few small incisions for each procedure rather than two incisions 12 inches or longer for an open procedure.
“Robotic surgery allows patients to be discharged sooner and safer and return to work faster,” says Dr. Evangelidis. Additionally, the team uses a post-surgical protocol that allows them to manage patients’ pain with a lower dose of narcotics, further enhancing recovery and reducing the risk for addiction.
Rick was especially thankful for that “by the grace of God” he was able to have both surgeries done on the same day.
Prior to the surgery, the teams administered an epidural block in Rick’s spine for the pain. Dora Gauntt, RN, supported him during the process.
“She spoke encouragements in my ear the whole time and it really calmed me. She was my angel,” says Rick, who went back a month after the surgery and thanked Gauntt, a 28-year veteran nurse, for her above and beyond care.
Dr. Doering’s team was first. After they removed the polyp in his colon, Dr. Evangelidis’ team proceeded with the removal of the tumor on his kidney. In all, the surgeries took a total of eight hours.
Rick’s hospital stay lasted only five days and cost significantly less than if he had undergone two separate surgeries. Best of all, he says, “Those five days were filled with staff who wanted to love and care for me during my recovery.
Since his June 2017 surgery, he subsequently made a full recovery, with no further treatment required and no evidence of cancer activity.
“Robotic surgery was the best way to go and I found no reason to do it anywhere else,” says Rick. “From a pastor’s point of view, God created the intelligence to create robots, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the talent of the medical staff at Ascension Via Christi.”