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Robotic Surgery Put Her Heart at Ease

October 11, 2018

"When you've had heart surgery, the first thing people look for is that scar on your chest," says Terylan Walker. "But it's just not that way with robotic surgery."

Rather than have open chest surgery to repair her leaking mitral valve, Walker took advantage of minimally invasive robotic surgery at The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City. The innovative procedure offers many benefits, including minimal blood loss, less pain, faster recovery and fewer complications.

Amazed at her good fortune to find this option close to home, the Tonganoxie, Kansas, resident was initially concerned whether it would be available to her.

Searching for the best option

When she saw her family physician for a checkup, Walker mentioned how she wasn't able to do the things she normally did, such as playing with her grandchildren or working in her garden.

"I was so short of breath," she says. "I'd wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe."

Walker knew she had a heart condition. In her early 20s, she was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, a condition that usually causes no problems and needs no treatment. For her, however, the valve between her left upper heart chamber and her left lower heart chamber was leaking severely, stressing her heart and lungs.

Now in her 50s, Walker needed treatment. Based on an echocardiogram, which captures images of the heart and measures its function, her doctor recommended she see a specialist for a procedure to repair her mitral valve.

Walker was concerned.

"I've had too much experience with open heart surgery," she says.

Her daughter was born with a congenital heart defect and has had 2 surgeries, one at only 4 years old. And her 19-year-old nephew also had open heart surgery.

At first, Walker thought her only option for minimally invasive surgery was at Mayo Clinic. But after doing some research, she found expertise close to home. Emmanuel Daon, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at The University of Kansas Health System, uses the da Vinci® Surgical System to perform complex mitral valve repair.

When I found Dr. Daon, I went straight to him and I took my echocardiogram results with me. – Terylan Walker

Speedy recovery, heartfelt gratitude

A week later, Walker had surgery. After several days in the hospital and a few weeks of recovery at home, she was back at work. Most importantly, she's now able to fully enjoy spending time with her husband, 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren.

"I'm so thankful for the opportunity to have had this type of procedure," Walker says. "Robotic technology sets cardiac surgery ahead light years at The University of Kansas Health System."

Dr. Daon agrees. "This state-of-the-art technology helps us offer additional treatment options and positive outcomes. Minimally invasive surgery allows patients to get back to their lives sooner than conventional surgery. And robotics lets us extend this approach to very complex procedures, like heart surgery."

In addition to robotic surgery, Walker appreciates the other ways hospital staff cared for her.

"Every person who came in my room was so kind," she says. "This is truly an amazing institution."

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