Steve Schoonmaker – da Vinci Single-Site Gallbladder Surgery Success Story

Hello, future! Good-bye, fear!

Steve Schoonmakerda Vinci Single-SiteTM gallbladder surgery success story

People are often quick to praise a surgeon for his skills. But this time around, the surgeon has praise for his patient.

"Steve Schoonmaker is a great example of a guy taking ownership of his health," says Gary White, MD, independently practicing surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson Medical Center.

Schoonmaker, a 54-year-old Plano retiree, stays physically fit, knows his medical history, and when something didn't seem quite right this spring, he did something that most men avoid: He went to the doctor.

And it's a good thing he did, because a breakthrough robotic surgical technique spared him from painful gallstones – and the long-held fear that he, like his father 15 years earlier, would face gallbladder cancer.

Because his father's cancer was found too late, Schoonmaker made it a point to be conscientious about the disease and its symptoms.

"When my blood work had high bilirubin counts, I knew something might be going on," he says. "Plus, I noticed a little tightness in my side. When my dad first went through this, he was diagnosed with a pulled muscle. The symptoms seemed similar, and I just didn't want to take any chances."

Steve Schoonmaker staying activeAn open door and a listening ear

After multiple failed attempts to find a surgeon who would see him right away, Dr. White, who says he strives to bring his Christian faith into his practice every day, stepped up to welcome Schoonmaker.

"Things happen for the right reasons, and I knew the first time I met Dr. White that they had," Schoonmaker says. "It just hit me how tuned in he was. When I told him my history, he said, 'You're absolutely right to come in here and have it checked out.'"

Additional tests confirmed Schoonmaker's suspicion that the gallbladder was to blame: He had developed gallstones. While only a slight cancer risk – less than 1 percent – remained, it was enough keep Schoonmaker awake at night. Fortunately, Dr. White removes gallbladders in almost all patients with gallstones to avoid the recurrence of the painful problem. Coupled with Schoonmaker's concern and family history, there was no doubt it was best to say so long to an organ the doctor says most people can live without.

A new level of robotic technology

In recent years, Dr. White has operated with the da Vinci® Surgical System, which uses the precision of robotic technology to make minimally invasive surgery even easier for both the patient and surgeon. But Schoonmaker was the ideal candidate for a brand-new da Vinci procedure: Single-SiteTM. In fact, Methodist Richardson is among the first hospitals in North Texas to offer the technology.

"I had learned that laparoscopic meant there'd be about four incisions, but when Dr. White said he wanted to do it with one, I was like, 'Hey, I'm all for it,'" Schoonmaker says.

The procedure went perfectly, and Schoonmaker experienced little pain afterwards.

"I wouldn't even call it pain," he says. "If you hadn't done sit-ups in a long time, and you went and did 50 in a row, that's kind of what it felt like to me – just a little soreness."

Dr. White says he's excited to bring this procedure to Methodist Richardson.

"We started doing da Vinci last year, and all of the work we put into mastering that technique has culminated now in a new generation of technology that can do an operation through an approximately 1-to 2-inch incision," Dr. White says. "That's fantastic."

Steve Schoonmaker da Vinci articleCare you can trust

Schoonmaker, a 33-year veteran in leading customer service operations, had nothing but praise for Dr. White and his whole experience at Methodist Richardson.

"I am really sensitive to customer service, and Methodist Richardson was unbelievable," he says. "I was floored by how good everyone was at that hospital. The nurses and doctors were just super attentive."

Schoonmaker was back to 100 percent only days after his surgery. Now he can enjoy the long, well-earned retirement ahead of him – and leave a fear of gallbladder cancer far behind him.

While clinical studies suggest that the da Vinci® Surgical System using Single-SiteTM Instrumentation is an effective tool for single-incision cholecystectomy, individual results may vary. Surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System may not be appropriate for every individual. Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits.