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Published on January 18, 2019

A Lot of Gall: Siblings Have Gallbladder Surgery On Same Day

Chicago residents from the Beverly neighborhood Florence Hooker and Sam Abbot took sibling rivalry to a whole new level when they both had their gallbladders removed on the same day, by the same surgeon, at Palos Hospital. Although different events led up to each surgery—one elective, one urgent—the outcome of both was a success. Today, the two can look back on the experience with incredulity and gratitude, along with great story to share.

Siblings Florence Hooker And Sam Abbott with Dr. Rapciak

Dr. Rapciak meets with patients Florence Hooker and Sam Abbott.

Retired City of Chicago electrician Sam Abbot was happy never to have spent a night in the hospital. Although he had gall stones, they did not cause him any symptoms. However during a routine physical, his family doctor ordered an ultrasound that indicated chronic findings and recommended further evaluation by general surgeon Maria Rapciak, DO.

Dr. Rapciak determined that Sam was at increased risk for gallstone complications and felt the best option was robotic-assisted gallbladder surgery using one of the two da Vinci® Surgical Systems available at Palos Hospital. His surgery was scheduled for two weeks out, and he arranged for care with his older sister, Florence, who planned to bring him to the hospital and then home following surgery.

Fast forward to two weeks later, the day before Sam’s planned gallbladder removal. While Sam prepared to go to the hospital, Florence spent time with her family, enjoying an afternoon swimming with her grandchildren. Later that day, however, her health took a sudden turn for the worse. “I developed terrible pains across my upper abdomen, and began vomiting. I also spiked a fever. It got so bad that I finally called my daughter-in-law, who took me to the Palos Emergency Department.”

After arriving at the ED, imaging studies and blood work showed that Florence had an inflamed gallbladder—a condition known as acute cholecystitis. She required hospital admission and IV antibiotics. Dr. Rapciak was consulted and recommended the best option was to remove her gallbladder. “The diagnosis was a complete surprise to me,” said Florence. “I knew I had gall stones before going to the ED, but they really weren’t giving me any trouble.”

Early the next morning, Sam got a call from his sister. “She told me she wouldn’t be able to bring me to the hospital, because she was already there, waiting to have her gallbladder removed! I jokingly told her she was trying to steal my thunder,” said Sam.

Fortunately, Sam’s daughter stepped in and brought him to the hospital. Dr. Rapciak performed his gall bladder removal surgery as planned, followed soon after by Florence’s surgery. Both surgeries were performed using the da Vinci Si robot.

During robotic surgery, the surgeon sits at a console, viewing a 3-D, high definition image of the patient’s anatomy. He or she uses controls to move the instrument arm and camera, “It is a common misconception that the robot is performing the surgery,” explained Dr. Rapciak. “In fact, the system simply translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into carefully calculated movements inside the patient.”

Robotic surgery has many advantages, including greatly enhancing the surgeon’s ability to visualize and work with tissue that may be acutely inflamed or have chronic changes. The delicate robotic instruments allow for increased precision and dexterity, yielding greater results even in complicated cases. “In both instances, by utilizing the da Vinci robot, I was able to perform a less invasive surgery that led to quicker recovery, less pain and shorter hospital stays for Sam and Florence,” explained Dr. Rapciak.

The siblings stayed down the hall from each other at the hospital as they recovered. “During my time at Palos, I would walk down to visit Florence,” said Sam. “The nursing staff really got a kick out of it. They said they have had husbands and wives on the same floor, but never siblings!”

Today, both siblings are fully recovered and doing well, with no lingering after effects from their surgeries. They are back to their tradition of Sunday dinner at Florence’s home with all the kids and grandkids joining them… but, have no plans to have surgery together anytime soon.

Dr. Rapciak is one of more than two dozen surgeons at Palos Hospital certified on the da Vinci Surgical System, which can be used in many types of surgical procedures. Ask your doctor if you may be a candidate for robotic surgery.