Canadian first in robotic surgery at University Hospital
Published Wednesday, August 28, 2013 6:11PM EDT
A Walkerton woman gave her husband the ultimate gift - a new kidney - and in the process she made Canadian medical history.
Kelley Kunkel is the first person in the country to donate a kidney through robotic surgery performed at London's University Hospital.
Complications from diabetes meant Steve Kunkel needed a new kidney, and his wife Kelley was a perfect match.
Steve says “I was pretty adamant that I didn’t want her to do it,” but Kelley had different ideas.
“I can be very determined too. He can be determined. But I can be more determined"
Steve is now healthy thanks to Kelley's kidney, which he received in May.
And Kelley is grateful that she was chosen to be the first person in Canada to have her kidney removed with a minimally invasive procedure done by Dr. Alp Sener, a urologist at the London Health Sciences Centre, using the robotic da Vinci Surgical System.
"We made one single incision over top of the belly button of the donor. So the entire surgery was done through that single incision using the robotic platform. After the kidney was ready to be removed we then undocked the robot removed the robot from the field and removed the kidney through that single incision itself," Sener explains.
The da Vinci procedure has significant advantages. Traditional surgery - even minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery - often involved three or four incisions compared to just one with the da Vinci.
Kelley says she was up and around very quickly after the procedure.
"I made sure that I didn't lift anything for six weeks because they were very adamant about that. And took it easy, but I could still function daily after that first week and at week three I felt that, ‘Boy, I’m feeling really great.’"
Sener says "The robotic platform allows us to have better visualizations, three dimensional, high definition. It allows us to get into tighter spaces than we would normally have with standard laparoscopic approaches.”
He adds that it's also hoped that by making living donation easier, it will get more people to donate.
"We have a couple planned in the next few months and our hope is over the next year or year-and-a-half most, if not all of them will be done this way."
Meanwhile Steve and Kelley are back home in Walkerton with a special bond and a new lease on life.
Steve says "I honestly feel about 15 years younger than I did before. It was such a progressive thing before. I really didn't know how bad I felt, and now it's hard to explain how good I actually feel.”