da Vinci Patient Stories

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Karen Freehling: A Lakeland da Vinci® Masterpiece Share
Karen Freehling

Jan, 2015

Physicians: George Heenan MD, James Clancy III, MD, FACS,

After undergoing gallbladder surgery years ago, Bridgman resident Karen Freehling thought she knew what to expect from future trips to the operating room. But it wasn't until Karen’s recurring diverticulitis required surgical treatment with Lakeland’s da Vinci robot that she realized just how far technology had come.

Over the previous two years, Karen, 70, had experienced three episodes of diverticulitis, a condition that occurs when pouches—called diverticula— form alongside the walls of the colon, causing pressure and often pain. To determine if surgery was an option, Karen’s primary care physician, George Heenan MD, referred her to general surgeon James Clancy III, MD, FACS, of St. Joseph.

Before any steps were taken, Karen counseled with Dr. Clancy, discussing her options—conventional surgery, or surgery via Lakeland’s da Vinci robot. 

The da Vinci is a robotic surgery system utilized by highly trained medical professionals for bariatric, cardiothoracic, general, gynecological, and urological procedures at Lakeland. Minimally invasive techniques using the da Vinci may enable a shorter hospital stay, a quicker recovery, and faster return to normal daily activities. Since the robotic surgery program was launched in 2007, more than 900 cases have been performed at Lakeland using da Vinci robots.

“Dr. Clancy explained how it would be done,” Karen said. “He was very good at giving me the pros and cons, and answered all the questions that I had.”

Through Dr. Clancy’s guidance and her own research, Karen decided that surgery with the da Vinci was her best choice. On the morning of the surgery, she was pleased with the compassionate care she received from the entire Lakeland team—from the staff members, who helped grant her request for an earlier admission time, to Dr. Clancy and the anesthesiologist, who walked her through every step one last time.

“The medical staff was excellent,” Karen said. “It was a great experience.”

Following the procedure, Karen discovered just how different the recovery was with the da Vinci surgery in comparison to traditional operations.

“I had very little pain and small incisions with this surgery,” she said. “I was up walking the next morning, and I had a very speedy recovery time.”

Within three days, Karen was already home, and by four weeks she had fully recovered. Today, she speaks highly of the robotic surgery technology available at Lakeland.

“My advice to anyone who has to have surgery is to have the robotic surgery if at all possible,” Karen said. “It just amazed me how everything went.”

Learn more about the da Vinci technology at

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