Patient Stories - Ron Callihan
Ron Callihan was in trouble. At 55, the seasoned paramedic recognized that the shortness of breath he was experiencing was serious. He experienced a heart attack a few years ago, so he contacted his cardiologist and went to get things checked out. Ron learned he needed bypass surgery, due to the size and location of the coronary blockage, known as the “widow-maker.”
Ron realized that open heart surgery was difficult to recover from. “When I went to see the heart surgeon, I was resigned to the fact that we were going to do what had to be done.” Fortunately, cardiothoracic surgery at Spartanburg Regional has been at the forefront of technological breakthroughs for over 20 years.
Ron arrived at his first appointment, not knowing he was about to become part of history. His cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Leyland, explained “there was a brand new procedure available, and he was one of only a handful of surgeons in the country who could perform it.”
Traditional coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) involves opening the chest cavity with a six to eight inch incision through the breastbone to access the heart. Robotic coronary artery bypass meant Ron would not need a large incision down the middle of his chest. He would not have his breastbone wired back together, and most importantly, his expected recovery time would shrink from 12 weeks to two or three.
Dr. Leyland performed Ron’s totally endoscopic coronary artery bypass (TECAB) using the da Vinci surgical robot. The robot allows the surgeon to carry out complex surgical maneuvers from a console. Four robotic arms, one of which is a video camera, are inserted into the side of the patient’s chest. The physician guides the robotic arms with his hands as he looks at a screen displaying magnified three-dimensional images. Robot-assisted surgery enables greater precision and range of motion than is possible with standard procedures.
In addition to less scarring, robotic procedures offer many advantages to patients—shorter hospital stays, less blood loss, significantly less pain and a much faster recovery time. Ron was cleared to drive and do yard work after two weeks. He returned to the job he has been passionate about for 30 years –helping others when they need it most.
“I am proud to have been the first patient to have robotic heart surgery, but I’m also thankful such a wonderful option is available, not just for me, but for lots of other people who will benefit from it.”