Robotic-Assisted Bariatric Surgery Helped Kaitlyn Woolford Gain the Active Life She Wanted

Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth. For Kaitlyn Woolford, who has struggled with her weight for years, getting on a ride there was disheartening.

“It’s embarrassing. You have this dichotomy. Your body takes up space, so you try to shrink yourself to compensate,” said Kaitlyn, age 43. “But it’s not who you are and where you want to be. It’s not healthy.”

So in December 2018, she elected to have a robotic-assisted sleeve gastrectomy at Virtua Memorial Hospital with Virtua bariatric surgeon, Gaurav Sharma, MD, FACS, FASMBS. Virtua is proud to be the only provider of robotic-assisted bariatric surgery with the da Vinci surgical system in South Jersey.

“It got to the point where I was losing my quality of life. I was still mobile, but I knew I couldn’t get the most out of my life,” she said. “I didn’t want to always be tired at the end of the day.”

Advanced robotic surgery technology improves safety and precision

The da Vinci uses a high-definition 3-D camera that the surgeon can move and magnify from a console located a few feet from the patient. The system directly translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist, and finger movement to the robot’s instruments, which are inserted into the body through small incisions. The robot is completely controlled by the surgeon.

“The visualization greatly improves precision,” said Dr. Sharma, who has performed more than 175 robot-assisted bariatric surgeries. “This technology allows me to perform bariatric surgery in an even safer manner. It's is just like being inside the patient’s body, but working through tiny holes. In addition, the wristed instruments bend and rotate, improving dexterity and control.”

Compared to traditional open surgery, patients benefit from:

  • Less pain
  • Reduced risk of complications and infection
  • Smaller incisions and less scarring
  • Shorter hospital stay (typically overnight)
  • Quicker recovery 

“Patients often ask, ‘Did you even operate on me yesterday?’ They have minimal pain,” said Dr. Sharma. “That’s because we can do the surgery through a few small incisions without involving the abdominal muscles, which reduces postsurgical pain. Patients are up and moving within two hours of surgery, and need less medication.”

Kaitlyn lost weight and gained a medal for running in the Broad Street RunRobotic-Assisted Bariatric Surgery Helped Kaitlyn Woolford Gain the Active Life She Wanted

Following the surgery that removed 85% of her stomach, Kaitlyn lost more than 140 pounds. Her nagging knee pain disappeared, and five months later, she participated in Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run.

“The hardest weight to lose is the mental weight,” said Kaitlyn. “You have to undo all of the unhealthy behaviors, tendencies, and vices. It’s finding that balance.”

Dr. Sharma applauded Kaitlyn’s progress.

“She had a lot of knee pain, and now she’s running,” he said. “Eliminating joint pain is just one of the benefits of bariatric surgery. Many patients experience improvement in medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and high lipid levels.”

Kaitlyn encourages others on their weight-loss efforts.

“It’s not necessarily an easy journey, but it’s a worthwhile journey,” she said. “Don’t let your comfort zone get in the way of your life. This is not a dress rehearsal. You only get one life. Make the most of it.”

What will you gain when you lose?

Find out how bariatric surgery can help you reach your health and wellness goals. Sign up for a free virtual information seminar.

Updated December 23, 2020

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Questions about weight-loss surgery?

Attend one of our FREE Weight-Loss Surgery Information Sessions or email Virtua’s bariatric navigator at VirtuaBariatrics@virtua.org


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