Having to live with an enormous hernia in your abdomen can be difficult all on its own. Combine that with a prostate cancer diagnosis, and you’ve got a serious health challenge.
James Savoy Jr. faced these very problems head on. In fact, his diagnosis also led him down a path to improved health.
The retired Columbia, Maryland resident wanted to have his stage 1 prostate tumor surgically removed, as urologist and AAMC Associate Chair of Surgery Robert Hanley, MD, recommended. But Dr. Hanley said that in order to perform the surgery, he would also need to take care of James’ watermelon-size hernia.
At that point, Dr. Hanley called AAMC hernia specialist Igor Belyansky, MD, to discuss the idea of performing these two surgeries at the same time. “The dual robotic procedure would remove James’ cancerous prostate gland and repair his giant hernia at the same time,” says Dr. Hanley. Neither surgeon believed that a robotic, dual prostatectomy and abdominal wall reconstruction surgery had been previously performed in one sitting.
Given the complexity of his abdominal wall hernia, the surgeons asked James to lose 50 pounds – about 20 percent of his body weight – to make the procedure possible. James was up for the challenge.
Leap of Faith
Over the next several months, James set out to lose weight using a physician-approved diet. With his surgeons’ encouragement, he thrived. James lost more than 50 pounds.
“I just had a lot of faith in those two doctors. They gave me the confidence I needed to make my decision,” says the grandfather of six. “Otherwise I would have had to go under the knife twice in one year. When they explained the robotics and the fact that my recovery time would be tremendously less, it got me excited. I decided it would be a life-changing thing.”
Drs. Hanley and Belyansky were thrilled with their patient’s commitment. By the time the dual surgery was scheduled in June 2016, they had mapped out the six-hour process. In addition to removing his prostate, they would reconstruct James’ abdominal wall. They would bring the muscles back together to their native position and use surgical mesh, all through several tiny incisions.
‘A Mind-Blowing Outcome’
After a complication-free 23-hour hospital stay – a week shorter than similar surgeries involving large incisions – James went home. Within weeks, he was back to his favorite activities, including gardening, grilling and cheering on the Redskins.
Since the surgery, James is doing remarkably well. He has maintained his weight loss with the help of the vegetables he grows in a community garden. “I grow tomatoes, collard greens, kale, potatoes and more. I just love to play in the dirt,” he says. James has also given away his larger-size clothing. He appreciates his trimmer physique and good health.
“We talked with James about his goals and then developed a plan. In order to be successful, each of us had to do his part,” Dr. Belyansky says. “It’s a mind-blowing outcome for everyone.”