New robotic surgery used for kidney transplant at Richmond hospital

Rare robotic surgery used for transplant

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A new type of robotic surgery is a milestone in kidney transplantation, and VCU Hume-Lee Transplant Center says Dr. Chandra Bhati is the first on the East Coast to perform it.

William “Woody” Johnson is among the first few patients to have robotic-assisted transplantation. Dr. Bhati performed both operations on the donor, Joanne Wiley, and Johnson, using a robot.

It’s a hands-off approach minimizing cutting and maximizing recovery and healing for the patient.

“They are walking the next day. Whenever I see a patient who has gone through this, I see them walking, I am tremendously happy,” Dr. Bhati said.

It was the best course of action for William when they had a conversation regarding the surgery.

“He thought about it and he asked me ‘have you done this before?’ I said, ‘yes, I’ve done it. You won’t be the first one,’” Dr. Bhati said.

Johnson was his thirteenth patient. Since then, Dr. Bhati says he has performed two more robotic-assisted surgeries, so the count now is 15 patients.

Johnson’s kidneys shut down when he was 20 years old after his high blood pressure had gone untreated by doctors. They didn’t think it was a problem because of his young age. Now, he’s a new man with a second chance at life.

“I was anxious the first couple of times I did it. I told him I can make just a seven centimeter incision and I can drop the kidney in, and I can just do the transplantation with the robot,” Dr. Bhati said.

The surgery went well for Johnson and his donor.

Dr. Bhati says robotic-assisted surgery provides hope for obese patients who traditionally have been denied organ transplantation.

“People who have a higher weight and they typically are not considered for transplantation anywhere, we can consider them on a selective basis. We don’t want to say the patient with the higher weight shouldn’t get the transplant now,” Dr. Bhati said.

He says altruistic angels, like Wiley, are providing renewed hope. They come forward to help complete strangers and expect nothing in return.

When donors come forward, he says his first conversation is to talk them out of it.

“Most people can live life with one kidney. But you are going to lose your back up and you have no relationship with the donor. Are you sure you want to do this?'” he said.

It was an easy for Joanne Wiley to say yes, and William “Woody” Johnson is grateful.

"Once she came forward, it was all like perfect match for both of them,” Dr. Bhati said.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a living organ donor, contact Donate Life Virginia at 804-330-3667 or email: administrator@donatelifevirginia.com.

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