East Brunswick resident Natalia Bogataia loves to travel but has been grounded for the last few years by urinary incontinence. Now, after surgery, she’s looking forward to a vacation to her native Moldova and many more adventures.
Natalia, 50, began experiencing pelvic pain and urinary leakage five years ago. The mother of two saw her gynecologist, who suggested exercises to strengthen her pelvic muscles. Exercise didn’t solve the problem and her condition worsened. To compensate, Natalia avoided long-distance travel, wore incontinence pads, limited the amount of liquid she drank, and visited the bathroom frequently. She carried a spare pair of underwear just in case, and tried to not laugh, jump, or cough.
“It was uncomfortable and embarrassing,” Natalia remembers. “I couldn’t go to the gym, travel, or walk long distances. I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do.”
Natalia was referred to Martin Michalewski, MD, FACOG, a board-certified urogynecologist and female pelvic medicine specialist. Dr. Michalewski performed a comprehensive examination and found that Natalia’s uterus was enlarged and was putting pressure on her bladder. She also was suffering from pelvic organ prolapse, which happens when the muscles, ligaments, and tissues holding the pelvic organs in place become weak and can’t properly hold them up. Some factors—like aging, being overweight, childbirth, and a past hysterectomy—can increase the likelihood of prolapse. Natalia believes that childbirth strained her muscles, and the condition worsened as she neared menopause.
“These conditions should not be considered a natural part of aging,” explains Dr. Michalewski “There are 15-minute surgical procedures that we can perform to instantly improve a woman’s quality of life. There’s no need to wear embarrassing pads.”
In April, Dr. Michalewski inserted a mesh sling the size of a pinky finger to support her urethra and prevent leakage. He also performed a partial hysterectomy to remove Natalia’s enlarged uterus to prevent it from continuing to squeeze her bladder.
Both procedures were performed using the da Vinci Xi® robotic surgery system. This minimally invasive approach uses advanced technology to perform extremely delicate and complex procedures through a few small incisions. The result is less impact on the body and a quicker recovery compared with traditional open surgery, which requires a large incision to remove the uterus. In fact, Natalia had surgery in the morning and went home later that day.
Now, Natalia is back to her active lifestyle, which includes working as a technical translator for an information technology company. Best of all, she got a few new stamps in her passport this summer.
“I feel great and I’ve gotten my life back,” Natalia says. “I’m only 50 and there’s still a lot of time for me to do what I want, and now I can.”