WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A Texoma woman is free from pain that prevented her from living life to the fullest after not one, but two robotic surgeries at United Regional.

That’s thanks to technology and a general surgeon, who knows firsthand what it’s like to have the surgery, that helped her recover quickly.

“She said ‘how long do you want to live with this?’ and I said ‘I don’t,” Amy Smith, who had two robotic surgeries at United Regional, said.

Smith was living with a lot of pain.

“When you eat, you’ll feel very sick, you’ll start to, usually within minutes 10 minutes to 30 minutes, you’ll get nauseated, feel like you’re gonna throw up and then you get this pain.”

Come to find out, Smith had gallstones and the best way out of the pain was to have her gallbladder removed by United Regional General Surgeon Christal Hames, MD, with the help of a robot.

“My patients personally have had a much faster recovery than traditional laparoscopy and one of the reasons for that is the robotic machine has the ability to move with the abdominal wall,” Dr. Hames said. “Traditional laparoscopy does not so there’s quite a bit of pressure and torque if you will with traditional laparoscopy and with the robot there is not, so they can recover a little bit faster.”

Yes, a robot helps make this surgery happen, but Dr. Hames is still the one running the show.

“The surgeon is still in control, we are still at the bedside, we still decide where the incisions go, we still decide where the instruments go, but then we put in this machine at the patient and we actually step back and go to a separate console machine and do the entire operation from there typically,” Dr. Hames said.

In fact, Dr. Hames knows in more ways than one, it works.

“I actually had to have my gallbladder out a few years ago and my senior partner did it and he did it with a robot and I wouldn’t have wanted it done any other way,” Dr. Hames said.

Smith wasn’t done after having her gallbladder removed, the pain caused by what she later learned was two hernias, was keeping her from really enjoying life.

“I mean I wasn’t leaving the house much because if I got up that was just hanging down in my groin and that was just painful,” Smith said.

Smith, Dr. Hames and the robot would meet again, this time to repair those hernias just about five weeks after her first surgery.

Besides a better recovery, Dr. Hames said she can see blood vessels and other parts of the body a lot clearer with the robot, which United Regional now has two of.

“There’s a medication we give patients pre-operatively, that during the operation we can really see very clearly their entire biliary tree, meaning their liver, their gallbladder, their bile ducts and it really is a wonderful adjunct to being able to do a really nice dissection even in the most complicated of patients,” Dr. Hames said. “I think that alone advancement has created far far less conversions to open operations.”

She said the medication works to light parts of the body to make seeing blood vessels easily.

“It is excreted by the biliary system so it makes it basically glow on the inside, it’s very cool,” Dr. Hames added.

Through the minimally invasive procedures, Smith is now nearly pain-free and on the mend.

“My recovery was so good, I would say to be hopeful about getting beyond what you’re living with to get through it and that United Regional was very nice to me,” Smith said. “They’ve been really great and the robotic surgery worked wonderful for me.”
Smith is feeling grateful for getting her life back through those two surgeries.

“I’m eating again, I’m getting out of the house again, I’m living again, its been a journey, it seems simple, but it’s been a journey,” Smith said.

That road though, lead to relief and a gratefulness for what’s offered not too far from home.

Dr. Hames has done at least 500 robotic surgeries since first being trained about three years ago.

As a general surgeon, Dr. Hames said she typically does gallbladder removal surgery, groin and abdominal wall hernia repairs and surgery for colon cancer with the help of the robot.

Smith is back to something she loves, fishing, and finally getting to enjoy meals with her husband.