Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Robot Helps Save Teen's Life
encToday ^ | September 26, 2010 | ANIESA HOLMES

Posted on 09/26/2010 4:59:47 PM PDT by nickcarraway

Participating in sports or playing an instrument may seem like a normal part of a teenager’s busy schedule, but for Gabby Gutierrez it’s a wonderful reminder of life.

A sophomore at White Oak High School, Gabby juggles participation in soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball and playing clarinet for the band. The 15-year-old says she is appreciative of every moment — and owes a lot of thanks to a special robot that helped save her life.

Several months ago, she discovered a frightening and potentially fatal medical condition after returning from a volleyball match. Gabby noticed a lingering sore throat that she thought was the result of a cold or from cheering too much during her match.

“I felt like there was like a wad of cotton balls in my throat and it was painful to touch,” Gabby said. “The entire side of my side of my throat was tender and it was painful.”

After a few weeks, Gabby was unable to eat, drink or swallow; and she knew something more was wrong.

Gabby’s parents, Joel and Kathy Gutierrez, took her to Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. She had complained of breathing problems and chest pains in recent years, but doctors suspected it was the effects of bronchitis or asthma.

“She was crying because it hurt so badly. You couldn’t see anything in her mouth, so we took her to the emergency room,” Kathy said.

However, even the strongest antibiotics were unable to relieve Gabby of any pain at the hospital. Doctors performed a biopsy which later revealed that a massive, non-cancerous tumor, called lymphangioma, had been growing at the base of her tongue over time and was blocking half of her throat. Without immediate oral surgery, the tumor could have been fatal.

“Doctors told us that normally a child will be born with an over amount of lymph nodes, and between the ages of 3 and 5 they find them and deal with them then,” Kathy said. “Very seldom do they make it to Gabby’s age with them still intact.”

Gabby’s doctors felt that she needed surgery immediately and sent her to UNC hospitals in Chapel Hill, where ear, nose, and throat doctors Adam Zanation and Carlton Zdanski felt that she needed a minimally invasive surgery in order to remove the tumor. They suggested using the daVinci robotic surgical system, a device that is used to remove various cancers and general surgeries but is typically used on adults. Gabby would become the first UNC pediatric patient to have the oral robotic surgery.

“When I found out I needed surgery, I was a little worried; but my mom and dad kept a really cool head so I wasn’t in total shock,” Gabby said.

On Aug. 9, Zdanski, a pediatric airway specialist, worked with Zanation, a robotic surgeon, to remove the tumor during four hours of surgery.

A typical surgery would have required doctors to make a slit down the middle of her chin and down her neck in order to access the back of the throat, which would take weeks to heal and could have led to further complications for a child.

“With the daVinci recovery time, she was talking right out of surgery and stopped taking pain medication the next day, and she was eating,” Kathy said. “It’s been a long road for us, but we’re thankful that we’re at the end of that road.”

Gabby was disappointed that she couldn’t participate in physical activities for a few weeks in order to recover, but Gabby said that she noticed an instant change in her ability to breathe, eat and speak after her surgery.

“The first thing I thought was that I had the taken the deepest breath in my entire life — I noticed an immediate difference,” she said.

Gabby and her parents returned to the hospital two weeks later for a check up, and UNC Hospitals surprised her with an invitation to the surgery room to explain how the robot was used in her surgery. She was also allowed sit at the daVinci console and operate the controls.

“It was really cool because I got to see the actual room that they operated on me in, and I got to operate the robot which was really cool,” Gabby said. “I never expected something like that. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.”

Her parents are especially grateful that one quick operation was able to save her daughter’s life.

“We are so beyond grateful and all of our girls are extremely different and I just couldn’t imagine part of that being missing,” Kathy said. “She brings her own style, but she’s such a great child and she’s so much fun. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to my daughters or anyone else’s child.”

Almost two months after her surgery, Gabby is back on the soccer field and playing basketball with her best friends. She also appreciates every moment that she has to spend time with her parents and her two sisters.

“I’m extremely grateful,” she said. “Knowing that I might not be here playing with friends or doing homework or playing soccer is jaw-dropping.”

TOPICS: Health/Medicine; Miscellaneous; Science
KEYWORDS: medicine; robots

1 posted on 09/26/2010 4:59:50 PM PDT by nickcarraway
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

2 posted on 09/26/2010 5:07:45 PM PDT by Krankor (Don't you see, no matter what you do, you'll never run away from you.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: skippermd


3 posted on 09/26/2010 5:09:12 PM PDT by mad_as_he$$ (Playing by the rules only works if both sides do it!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Krankor
More cool that that.

4 posted on 09/26/2010 5:36:56 PM PDT by ThomasThomas (I still like peanut butter)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

A friend had his prostate cancer removed by a daVinci robot. It’s supposed to minimize side-effects.

5 posted on 09/26/2010 5:38:31 PM PDT by AZLiberty (Yes, Mr. Lennon, I do want a revolution.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Krankor

Paging Doctor Robotomy!

6 posted on 09/26/2010 5:43:24 PM PDT by GeronL ( <--- My Fiction/ Science Fiction Board)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: ThomasThomas
More cool than that.
C'mon! That looks like something in my dentist's office. It's gotta at least walk around to be really cool.
7 posted on 09/26/2010 5:43:54 PM PDT by Krankor (Don't you see, no matter what you do, you'll never run away from you.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway
They are nice, aren't they?

..... until the little red light turns on, I mean.

8 posted on 09/26/2010 5:47:53 PM PDT by Lazamataz (The battle lines are drawn: On one side, are Dems and Repubs. On the other, the Tea Party (us).)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

There’s more to this story than meets the eye. From Technology Review (

“The da Vinci robot is made by California-based Intuitive Surgical, the only big player in the robotic surgery arena (some other companies make robotic systems for eye and brain surgery). The company, founded in 1995, adapted technology originally developed for long-distance surgery—an application quickly abandoned—and created a broad patent portfolio around robotic surgery. It bought up early competitors, garnering Food and Drug Administration approval for its surgical system in 2000. And that’s largely where things have stood for the last decade.

“People have been disappointed in how slowly the robot is evolving,” says Jon Einarsson, a gynecological surgeon at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. “There hasn’t been a lot of evolution or improvement in the articulation at the tip of the instrument.” Some innovations that Einersson would like to see are haptics—a sense of touch that can be translated from the robotic instruments to the surgeon—and a way to incorporate data from magnetic resonance imaging.

Some surgeons and engineers argue that a much smaller and cheaper device could provide the same visual advantages and flexibility, but that no one has been able to move this forward. “The da Vinci robot looks like it was designed to make automobiles—it’s great big clunky gear,” says Kirby Vosburgh, an engineer with the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT), in Boston, who previously designed medical technology for General Electric...”


Things could be going a lot better. This Intuitive Surgical sounds like the Microsoft of robotic medicine.

9 posted on 09/26/2010 5:48:39 PM PDT by sinanju
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Lazamataz

10 posted on 09/26/2010 6:25:29 PM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway
I just read this article in my hometown newspaper The Jacksonville Daily News. Once I had read the heartwarming story, my next thought was how much longer will those of us in NC be able to go for treatment to UNC-Chapel Hill or Duke if Obamacare is not repealed or radically changed. We are very blessed in this state to have some wonderful medical facilities filled with some of the best medical experts in the country. What incentive will these brilliant minds have to go into medicine if Obamacare becomes a reality?
11 posted on 09/26/2010 7:36:40 PM PDT by srmorton (Deut. 30 19: "..I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing;therefore choose life..")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson