Robotic Surgery Helps New Jersey Man Breathe Easier
“It feels like nothing ever happened, like I never had surgery at all,” Jason Healy says.
Jason Healy awoke one morning last summer with indigestion that wouldn’t go away. He tried medication his primary care doctor prescribed, but he soon developed other symptoms – chest and neck pain, headaches, shortness of breath and problems swallowing.
Was it his heart? Tests said no. But a CT scan revealed a mass near his lung. “I feared lymphoma because it was near my lymph nodes,” says Healy, 36, of Flemington, N.J. Thankfully more tests brought a little relief. The mass was non-cancerous, but was large and pressing on the airways behind the lungs. “It had been with me since birth and had grown slowly over the years,” Healy says.
Because the cyst now caused health problems, Healy had to get it removed. He began researching doctors online and found educational videos on You Tube featuring cardiothoracic surgeon Michael Szwerc, MD, with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) in Allentown, Pa.
“I was interested in something called video-assisted surgery, but once I met Dr. Szwerc, I learned there was a new approach,” Healy says. That approach involved the da Vinci® Robotic Surgery System. Using a surgical robot allows doctors at LVHN to perform more precise procedures with smaller scars and faster healing.
“Open surgery usually requires larger incisions that can cause significant discomfort and take a while for the patient to return to normal activity,” Szwerc says. “Robotic surgery is much less invasive. The incisions are smaller, and the robot makes it easier to remove a cyst deep in the chest cavity like the one Jason had.” Many patients with cancerous tumors of the lung and esophagus are now candidates for this less invasive robotic assisted surgery as well.
Szwerc used the robot to remove Healy’s cyst in a three-hour procedure in November 2012. Healy went home from the hospital just 23 hours later. “With traditional surgery, I would’ve needed six to eight weeks to recover,” Healy says. “But after robotic surgery, I felt good the next day. I went out for a half-mile walk the day I left the hospital, and was walking 5 miles within a couple of days.”
He felt ready to return to work a week later, but waited until his follow-up with Szwerc. “The first thing he asked was if I was back to work yet,” Healy says.
Now Healy openly discusses his surgery with his co-workers. “They can’t believe how great I feel,” he says. “It feels like nothing ever happened, like I never had surgery at all.”