Judy Wegner – Pancreatic Cancer Success Story

Full-Speed Ahead Toward a Bright Future

robotic Whipple procedure HELPS RESCUE Judy Wegner FROM PANCREATIC CANCER

Judy Wegner had just finished the trip of a lifetime — a two-week tour of the Holy Land with her beloved husband, Vern — when she got a devastating diagnosis.

“Life was going great,” Judy says. “We were golfing and playing with our grandkids. We’d just gotten back from that wonderful trip, so it was just like whoa.”

In October 2017, the 73-year-old retiree was back home in Mansfield when she suddenly developed a yellowing of the eyes and unexplained itching on her arms. At Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, Judy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and rushed by ambulance to Methodist Dallas Medical Center, recognized by The Joint Commission for its excellence in treating patients with this condition. Alejandro Mejia, MD,executive program director of organ transplantation and transplant surgeon on the hospital medical staff, told Judy she would need surgery — and soon.

“I’m definitely sure that if we had not met Dr. Mejia, chances were pretty good I wouldn’t be here today,” Judy says.

The power of robotics

Days after Judy’s diagnosis, Dr. Mejia performed a grueling five-hour operation most commonly known as the Whipple procedure. Using the robotic da Vinci® Surgical System, he removed the head of Judy’s pancreas, part of the small intestine, the gallbladder, and the bile duct. Dr. Mejia then had to reconnect the remaining parts of her digestive system.

“It’s one of the most complex surgeries I do,” Dr. Mejia says. “Every case is so difficult, so I’m amazed that we have done already a hundred.”

That’s right. Judy is the 100th patient at Methodist Dallas to have a robotic Whipple procedure.

Within weeks, Judy was planning her next travels, and that was no surprise to Dr. Mejia.

“Ms. Wegner’s surgery went well,” he says. “It did help that she’s in very good shape; she’s an avid golfer.”

Plus, her procedure was robotic. Whipple procedures are traditionally open surgeries with large surgical incisions, long recoveries, and more risks for complications. Not so with the da Vinci robot.

“There is no question in my mind that patients do better when they get the robotic technique,” Dr. Mejia says. “They go home sooner, they are stronger, they recover faster, and they are ready for their next round of treatment in much better shape.”

Vern says Dr. Mejia demonstrated how he’d be controlling the robot from a nearby console — how his hand movements would dictate the robot’s movements in real time.

“We just felt like it would be a great success story,” Judy’s husband says.

Staying young at heart

Vern and Judy are so optimistic about the future that they purchased a motor home.

“This fall we took off for a few weeks and just enjoyed life and our great country,” he says.

In between travels, the couple is back on the golf course and playing with their nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“We try to keep as active as we can — that’s what life is all about,” Judy says. “Come home and sit in your rocking chair, and you get old very fast.”

A woman of strong faith, Judy says being the 100th robotic Whipple patient at Methodist Dallas is special for her.

“We know we have someone watching over us every day, taking care of us,” she says. “He put the team at Methodist Dallas in our lives that we needed to have at that very moment.”

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Watch videos of more patient success stories at Methodist HealthSystem.org/Media.

Judy Wegner and her husband, Vern, are able to continue their jet-setting life after Judy’s pancreatic cancer surgery. Hers was Methodist Dallas’ 100th robotic Whipple procedure!