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Robotic nephrectomy
David Meyers

When 15-year-old David Meyers suffered a bad hit playing high school football, he and his parents, Maureen and David, expected some sort of physical ailment. However, the aftermath was more serious than they anticipated.

“We figured there would be some bruising or even some sort of cut or tear to his kidneys because that’s the area where he was hit, but the MRI had a much bigger, unexpected surprise,” Maureen said. “They saw a tumor on his kidney.”

While the hit David received caused no real problem—just soreness and bruising—it did cause doctors to run tests that found the tumor, which doctors thought might mean cancer. From that initial emergency room visit, David was referred to Children’s of Alabama to see more doctors, including an oncologist, who concluded that with such a high risk of it being cancer, surgery was the best option. “Just a few short weeks later, David was in the hospital waiting to have his kidney removed,” Maureen said. “The doctors and nurses at Children’s made us so confident in the decisions that were made. The scariest part was that we had to wait until after surgery for a biopsy to reveal whether or not it was cancer.”

David’s surgeon, Children’s of Alabama’s Dr. Pankaj Dangle, performed robotic surgery for David’s nephrectomy, which was one of the first pediatric robotic nephrectomies in Alabama. The robotic surgery meant not only a smaller incision and minimal scarring, but also a much shorter recovery time. “With traditional surgery, the patient typically spends two or three days in the hospital depending on the pain threshold, but with robotic surgery, the patient can walk out of the hospital within 24 hours,” Dangle said.

“It was incredible,” Maureen said. “He had the surgery on a Friday, went home the next day and was back at school by the next Wednesday afternoon. The recovery time was great. It’s hard to see your child, especially when he is so athletic and active, not able to do what he loves. So the short recovery time was wonderful.”

And more good news for David – the tumor was benign. David must visit the doctor for regular checkups for three years, but he is completely healthy. And because of the robotic surgery, he only had to sit out from his normal activities for six weeks. Since then, he’s already played an entire baseball season and he’s even back to football, but he wears a little extra padding around his one kidney.

“The entire experience we had at Children’s was flawless,” Maureen said. “The doctors and nurses put us at complete ease—you don’t want to just go in and take a kidney out. But they made sure we understood everything and were at peace with it. They were so knowledgeable and great before, during and after surgery.”

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