Robotic Surgery: Minimally Invasive With Majorly Happy Results

Melissa Sorentino

By Kendra A. Kabasele

Melissa Sorentino was no stranger to the cycle of being in and out of the hospital, as she long suffered from regular bouts of diverticulitis. This condition is characterized by an infection or inflammation of the bulging pouches that often occur in our colons. “Honestly, I suffered so much pain and misery,” Melissa said. “And not being able to eat certain things — it was a life change for me.”

Among the things she couldn’t eat were seeds, popcorn, and other similar foods that would get trapped in the pouches, causing the issues. Treatments went on for months and months as she moved in and out of the hospital, including IVs and antibiotics. 

Worry and concern set in for Melissa, 44, as she sought out a solution to her ongoing pain and discomfort. In cases like hers, where the condition repeatedly affects your function and quality of life, surgery may be the next step. After speaking to a doctor close by in New Jersey, she felt highly uncomfortable. “[He] pretty much told me he would cut me from top to bottom, possibly have the [colostomy] bag, and then reverse it later on,” she shared.

A Second (Better) Opinion

When Melissa found Columbia’s own Dr. Schwartzberg, it changed her entire outlook. Her consultation quieted the worries she’d had with the other doctor, to such a degree that she was booked to go in for surgery on January 12th of this year. “He made me feel absolutely wonderful about it; made me feel very secure, and so I chose to go with him,” she explained. “He was able to do it robotically; no bag, put a couple of little incisions. And so far, so good — I feel good!”

Dr. Schwartzberg attested to just how well the surgery went. “She had a previous scar on her abdomen from a hernia repair, so I used that scar to remove the bad part of the colon,” he started. “And besides that one scar, the only other marks on her abdomen were these tiny little marks from the robot arms, which we just cover them with BAND-AIDS, they’re so small. And so, she did very well.” He went on to share, “She left the hospital within a few days. She had minimal pain. She basically had no new incisions at all. And this was a big difference compared to her being told she was going to have a huge operation with a very big scar; longer healing time, longer recovery time, the whole nine yards.”

Melissa’s second opinion turned out to be the best decision she could make for herself, especially since she knew that she didn’t want to have major surgery, nor any future potential complications or successive procedures. Dr. Schwartzberg added, “Obviously some excellent surgeons in New Jersey didn’t think they could do it minimally invasively. They thought it had to be a big open incision.”

Attitude of Gratitude

Now on the other side of her health journey, Melissa is adjusting to her new life without pain and misery, and she’s feeling pretty good. “In the beginning, obviously, I was a little sore and the pressure and all that,” she said. “But people, when they see me, they don’t even think I had the surgery!”

Only a few months post-surgery, she feels some discomfort, is not supposed to be lifting heavy things, and is still out of work, but these are all normal pieces of the recovery process, considerably less disruptive than if she’d otherwise had the major surgery.

Thinking back to the day of the consultation with Dr. Schwartzberg, she recalled, “When I sat down with him, when I tell you, I left there crying in happy tears after my consultation with him. And if he was to say that I was supposed to go to [surgery] the very next day, that’s how comfortable I felt to have this procedure done.”

When asked what she thought contributed to how pleased she was and to the overall success of the surgery, Melissa replied, simply, “Dr. Schwartzberg. Period.” She continued, “Seriously. I literally can’t be thankful enough for him.”

Subscribe to Healthpoints and never miss an update.