On a Life-Saving Mission: Local Man Conducts Exhaustive Search for Best Surgeon
Undergoes first robotic colorectal procedure in the region utilizing the da Vinci stapler
Dave Grant is shown here with his surgeons, from left, Michael Arvanitis, M.D., FACS, the section chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Monmouth Medical Center, and Roy M. Dressner, D.O.
To say that Dave Grant has overcome challenges is an understatement. Throughout his life, the 62-year-old Bayville resident and father of three has had four heart attacks, 31 orthopaedic operations due to a motorcycle accident and was diagnosed with and battled osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in 2001.
A fighter at heart, he entered into remission in 2004. Even though Dave was feeling completely healthy and asymptomatic, he recently followed his family physician's advice to get routine annual blood work done. Blood test results indicated that Dave was very anemic and per "doctor's orders," he made an appointment for a colonoscopy – his first since 2001.
Dave received the first piece of tough news when colonoscopy results revealed a mass on the cecum portion of his colon – the beginning of the large intestine. Then, following a PET scan, he was dealt with more bad news: several tumors were diffused throughout his liver and a biopsy of the 3 cm mass in his colon tested positive for colon adenocinoma – the most common type of gastrointestinal cancer and the second leading cause of death due to cancer. His diagnosis: stage 4 colorectal cancer which metastasized to the liver. His "prognosis" with minimal treatment was three-to-six months and 20 months with aggressive treatment – neither of which was good enough for Dave.
"The liver diagnosis rattled my cage," says Dave. "I knew colon cancer was treatable, but liver cancer is usually a death sentence; most people don't survive." Dave's stubborn personality and refusal to accept things at first glance led him on a mission. Immediately after being diagnosed, Dave began a natural healing approach that included vitamin C infusions and chemotherapy to address the liver cancer, but he knew that undergoing colorectal surgery would give him the best chance for survival. He went on a search for someone who would perform the procedure and, after researching and taking advice from friends, he interviewed four surgeons.
During one visit at a well-known treatment facility, Dave was taken aback when the prominent surgeon told him that surgery "wasn't in the cards for him" since he was stage 4. The surgeon's advice was to treat Dave's colon cancer with chemotherapy and not bother with surgery. This doctor, along with another doctor Dave interviewed at a different hospital, gave Dave no hope.
Fortunately, Dave had a completely different experience when he interviewed Michael Arvanitis, M.D., FACS, FASCRS Section Chief, Colon and Rectal Surgery, Monmouth Medical Center who is also a clinical associate professor of surgery at Monmouth's teaching affiliate, Drexel University School of Medicine. "Dr. Arvanitis was thorough and patient and gave my wife Carol and me as much time as we needed to ask questions. He made me feel 100 percent that he was there for me."
Dr. Arvanitis - assisted by his partner Roy M. Dressner, D.O., a practicing board-certified colorectal surgeon - performed a minimally invasive colon resection utilizing the robotic da Vinci EndoWrist stapler to remove the mass from Dave's colon. This technology enables the surgeon autonomy and fully-wristed articulation to access critical anatomy, while incorporating SmartClamp feedback to ensure appropriate tissue closure. The surgery required only six tiny incisions in Dave's abdomen as opposed to a large incision with traditional or "open" surgery. In typical "Dave" style, he was walking just six hours after surgery! Dave was discharged three days following surgery whereas traditional surgery would have required a 6-day stay, months of recuperation and more potential for complications.
"Robotic surgery is essentially laparoscopic surgery that equips the surgeon with better magnification and more precision," said Dr. Arvanitis. "In the short term, robotic procedures offer patients quicker recovery, less pain, fewer infections, and in the long term – less scar tissue and therefore less hospital readmission for scar tissue build up."
Dr. Arvanitis notes Monmouth Medical Center's multidisciplinary approach where each month, specialists from different fields participate in a colon rectal cancer meeting where the group presents ongoing challenging cases. "At these meetings, all of the specialists work together to review the cases, including Mr. Grant's, and come up with a consensus of how we can provide the best possible treatment approach."
"I couldn't have asked for a better hospital stay or treatment," says Dave. "I had the benefit and blessing of being on the cutting edge of what's available surgically today by the best surgeons. You also can't beat the soothing view of the Atlantic Ocean from my hospital bed!"
Dave continues to follow-up with Dr. Arvanitis and is currently undergoing multiple agent chemotherapy treatment.
"I've healed incredibly well without any complications and I feel fantastic also," says Dave, who credits his faith in God, physicians, medical treatment, along with a holistic approach, to where he is today.
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