Leonardo da Vinci is best known for his Mona Lisa portrait. But the Italian artist-scholar-inventor is also credited with creating the world's first robot—a humanoid clad in medieval armor and operated remotely with cables and pulleys.
Like most people, Jackie Sayre of Lewiston was aware of da Vinci the artist. But she knew nothing about the Renaissance man's robot expertise when she opted to travel north to Pullman for something called da Vinci surgery.
“I had tumors, and outrageous monthly cycles that were just ridiculous,” said Jackie, a 48-year-old supervisor for the Idaho Housing and Finance Association in Lewiston. Her primary care doctors said she needed a hysterectomy.
“They recommended going to Dr. (Ric) Minudri,” Jackie said.
Dr. Minudri, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Pullman-Moscow OB/GYN, one of several Palouse area physicians certified in the da Vinci Surgical System, scheduled Jackie for surgery at Pullman Regional Hospital, the only area hospital with the robotic-assisted, minimally invasive da Vinci technology.
“Dr. Minudri explained it. He did a really good job,” Jackie said. “He said it's basically this little computer operated arm with little scissors at the end. And he looks through a device that lets him see what he's guiding the machinery to do, and that the incisions are much smaller, and boy, I totally agree that it's amazing.”
Jackie based her endorsement, in part, on two earlier conventional surgeries that caused her more pain and resulted in much longer recovery times.
“I was fearing the pain,” she said, adding that a friend had championed the da Vinci route. “She does my hair out in Asotin, and she had it (da Vinci surgery) done about a year ago and she just raved about how easy it was.”
Robotic-assisted surgery, despite some limitations, has been called revolutionary and pivotal to a growing medical technology renaissance. Scott Adams, CEO at Pullman Regional, said the hospital invested in the new technology with the intention of providing state-of-the-art surgery close to home.
“Why travel for care when robotic-assisted surgery is available at Pullman Regional Hospital?” he said. “Using the da Vinci system, our surgeons can perform urologic surgeries, prostatectomies, hysterectomies and even gallbladder surgeries.”
Jackie said claims of less pain and a shorter hospital stay proved to be true in her case. “I took two weeks off of work,” she said. “But probably, if it had been a desperate situation and they needed me at work, I could have been back in a week.” She all but tossed away her pain pills five days after leaving the hospital.
Intuitive Surgical Inc., the company that introduced the da Vinci Surgical System more than a decade ago, makes no bones about attaching a renaissance man's name to its technology. “The product is called da Vinci because Leonardo da Vinci invented the first robot,” the company Website states. “He also used unparalleled anatomical accuracy and three-dimensional details to bring his masterpieces to life.”
Her own life, Jackie said, has returned to wonderfully normal after the surgery. “They got me up and I was walking that night after the surgery,” she said. “It was pretty amazing.” Jackie and her husband, Jeff Sayre, 54, have two children; daughter Andrea, 20, and son Evan, 17. She said all were amazed with the ease of her recovery.
The da Vinci system is comprised of a console, a robotic cart and four robotic arms. The surgeon works at the console, within a few feet of the patient, and controls the arms, one of which holds a camera that provides high definition magnified three-dimensional video of the procedure. Various surgical instruments are attached to the other arms, which move in concert with the surgeon's hands.
While she touts the virtue of robotic-assisted surgery, Jackie equally lauded the only place in the quad-cities area where the surgery is available.
“Pullman Regional, everybody was just fantastic,” she said. “The hospital had a real relaxed atmosphere, not so sterile. It was very warm and everyone was really friendly and did a good job explaining what they were doing, what they were going to do and how everything worked.”
As a career supervisor, Jackie said she recognized a condition at the hospital that is critical to a good work-place environment. “It appeared that everybody there likes their jobs,” she said. “I think that comes across in how they treat people.”
Perhaps the most satisfied “volunteer employee” at the hospital, Jackie quipped, is Petka, a bear-like Russian terrier who, as part of the hospital's Pet Partners Program, routinely makes rounds with his handler and pays visits to patients who welcome him.
“That was the coolest dog ever. I mean, I'm a huge dog person,” Jackie said. “And when I saw that big dog come in, it just made me smile so big. I don't think I've ever seen a dog like that before. He came real close, close enough to be leaning in but not on me, to where I just could reach around him and give him a big pet. It was cool.”
After staying about 36 hours at Pullman Regional for the surgery, Jackie said she returned home to Lewiston, her family and eventually work with no set-backs. “I took my time and got lunch before I left,” she confessed. “For hospital food, it was good.”
Friendly staff, loveable dogs and quality food aside, Jackie said her da Vinci experience remains the biggest reason she continues to endorse Pullman Regional Hospital and steer people that way.