Mary Ann celebrating procedure
Dr. Nilesh L. Vora, Mary Ann, and Dr. Amir Abolhoda celebrating Dr. Abolhoda’s 1000th procedure with the da Vinci Xi Surgical System.

Navigating one’s medical care can sometimes be confusing, especially if referred to different doctor’s offices, hospitals and specialists in order to take care of a health complication. Mary Ann Pawlisz, who is 81-years-old, was about to undergo a similar journey when visiting her gastroenterologist, but saved a lot of time and energy thanks to the efforts of the care team at the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center.

During a visit with her gastroenterologist, Mary Ann was told to see a pulmonologist because of cancer markers that were found in her system. Not wanting to travel farther than she needed to, Mary Ann met with her internist who referred her to a closer pulmonologist. After getting her blood work done, Mary Ann was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor in her lung.

Her pulmonologist referred her to a surgeon in order to remove the tumor, and in total, Mary Ann was scheduled to see five doctors and go through several medical procedures. Fortunately for her, a friend introduced her to Nilesh Vora, M.D., Medical Director, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute.

“I remember hearing that I needed to have surgery,” says Mary Ann. “I didn’t want to have to keep visiting doctors and doing procedures over and over again. It was exhausting enough having to go to three doctors already, so I’m glad I was recommended to Dr. Vora.”

After hearing about Mary Ann’s case, Dr. Vora stepped in and shifted her journey to one that would most benefit her care and compliment her schedule. Dr. Vora suggested that Mary Ann get robotic surgery, which would result in Mary Ann having less pain, a shorter hospital stay and a lower risk of infection, as well as save her more time compared to traditional surgery. Mary Ann agreed and saw Amir Abolhoda, M.D., FACS, Medical Director, Cardiothoracic Robotic Surgery Co-Director, ECMO Program, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute for her surgery. Dr. Abolhoda utilized the da Vinci Xi Surgical System – which acts as an extension of the surgeon's hands. Composed of several components, the device includes a large bedside cart with interactive robotic arms, a high-definition, three-dimensional viewing system, a computer console with specialized hand controls, and miniature surgical instruments.

“This procedure was Mary Ann’s best option given her condition,” says Dr. Abolhoda. “Choosing to undergo robotic surgery significantly decreased the amount of time that she had to spend in the hospital and recover post-operation, and increased her chances of having the tumor removed safely and stopping the cancer from spreading.”

MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center is the first health care organization to provide the da Vinci Xi Surgical System in Long Beach. The system can be used across a spectrum of minimally invasive surgical procedures and has been optimized for multi-quadrant surgeries in the areas of gynecology, urology, thoracic, cardiac and general surgery.

Thanks to Dr. Abolhoda, Mary Ann was able to check into the hospital on a Monday to do the procedure, and return home that Wednesday. She knew that the recommendation she had received from Dr. Vora was well founded. Now, Mary Ann continues to see Dr. Vora as her oncologist.

After her surgery, Mary Ann became to be more active and continues her gardening. She is grateful for the staff at the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute for enabling her to spend time with her granddaughter again, which was one of the biggest difficulties for her going into this medical journey. Mary Ann was also able to celebrate Dr. Abolhoda’s major milestone of reaching 1,000 thoracic procedures on the da Vinci Xi robot in March.

“Dr Abolhoda was very kind and professional, as well as the entire staff at the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute,” says Mary Ann. “To this day, I feel no pain. I didn’t even realize that I had lung cancer! I really appreciate everything that they have done for me and improving my life. I’m glad that I can take care of my grandchildren again and spend time with my family.”