Last February, when Gail Lombardo experienced vomiting and diarrhea while babysitting her grandchildren, she assumed she had picked up a simple stomach virus. It was when she didn’t have the strength to get out of bed the next day that her family began to worry.
“It hit me hard,” explains Gail, 69, a Manalapan resident, retired school nurse, and grandmother of five. “I couldn’t stand up. My daughter and husband insisted that I go to the hospital.”
A CT scan at CentraState’s Emergency Department revealed that Gail had perforated diverticulitis, or a ruptured colon. Board-certified surgeon Amit Kharod, MD, performed an emergency procedure called Hartmann’s surgery. In this temporary solution for Gail, he removed a piece of her colon and created a colostomy—an artificial opening in the abdominal wall to drain fecal matter.
Because the perforation caused sepsis, a serious infection, Gail spent 24 hours in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, where she received a course of antibiotics. She was released from the hospital about a week later, and struggled to get used to the colostomy. The system collects waste in a bag outside the body, so she was hesitant to leave the house. She lost 30 pounds because she was afraid to eat.
A Return to Normal
Four months later, when Gail was strong enough to undergo another surgery, Dr. Kharod reversed the colostomy procedure using the da Vinci Xi® robotic surgery system. The complex procedure only required five one-inch incisions, compared to the 12-inch incision necessary for traditional colostomy surgery.
“Because Gail’s colon was healthy, we were confident that the colostomy would only be temporary,” Dr. Kharod explains. “However, due to chronic back pain, she takes steroids, which can slow recovery. Reversing the colostomy robotically meant that we could make smaller incisions to ensure that her recovery time would be shorter and less stressful. She was uncomfortable using a colostomy bag, so removing it quickly and safely was important.”
Gail was home recovering three days later, and she took a road trip to visit family within a few weeks.
“This was a scary, uncomfortable time in my life, and I don’t know how I would’ve done it without the support of my daughter and husband—and Dr. Kharod,” Gail says. “He sat down and explained exactly what was happening and what each surgery would involve. It really put my mind at ease.”
Gail and her husband were so pleased with the care that she received at CentraState that they wrote a letter to the hospital’s management team.
“People always have time to complain but rarely take the time to praise,” she says. “As a nurse, I know how difficult the job can be. I had an excellent experience from beginning to end.”