Alternative surgery offers faster recovery
Jim Favia was no stranger to pain. Spinal and neurological issues had dogged him throughout his life. He accepted pain in his abdomen as part of life until the pain became stronger. Initially, Jim wrote it off as kidney stones, thinking, “It’ll pass.” But when the pain brought him to his knees, it was Jim’s wife, Bonnie, who said, “It’s time to go to the ER.”
At the Westlake Hospital emergency room, Jim received pain medication and underwent testing to find out what was causing such severe pain in his abdomen. The Favias were both shocked when the emergency room physician informed them that Jim had an infected perforated bowel, and that an operating room was being prepped for urgent surgery. The doctor outlined a proposed treatment plan, which included a major surgery, followed by a stay in the Intensive Care Unit. Jim was extremely concerned about the open surgery to repair his bowel, long recovery time and most of all – colostomy (a procedure in which the end of the large intestine is drawn through the abdominal wall, allowing waste to empty into a colostomy bag, which he would need to use six to 12 months).
That is why both Jim and Bonnie were all ears when a GI surgeon examined Jim’s CT scan and wanted to talk to them. Henry Govekar, MD, who is board certified in both general and colorectal surgery, was on call that night at Westlake Hospital. Dr. Govekar had been fellowship-trained in the latest colorectal surgical approaches at the Cleveland Clinic and had a lot of experience treating conditions similar to Jim’s. Dr. Govekar recalls that the infection caused by perforated bowel did not appear to be life-threatening at the time. That meant a less invasive surgical option might be a possibility.
One procedure instead of three
Dr. Govekar began outlining a different treatment plan by saying, “We don’t have to do this tonight, but you do have to listen to me.” He got the Favias’ undivided attention. Dr. Govekar proposed to admit Jim to the hospital to manage his severe pain and treat him with antibiotics to bring the infection under control. Once the infection was controlled, Jim would be sent home to rest and recover. After six weeks, when the swelling of his internal organs went down, he would come back for a scheduled laparoscopic procedure to remove the diseased part of his colon. There would be no colostomy, no bag for six to 12 months, and no need for yet another procedure to remove the colostomy bag. More importantly, the much less invasive surgery offered significantly shorter recovery time, less blood loss and fewer possible complications than the open surgery. Dr. Govekar told Jim that should his condition worsen or his infection return at any time during the six-week period, Jim would have to undergo the more invasive surgery, but there was a good chance it could be avoided.
“Everything about Dr. Govekar was reassuring, his calm and confident demeanor, his bedside manner, everything. I felt he really cared about me. He cared about my life after the operation. He didn’t sugar-coat the situation, rather was very honest with us,” Jim recalls. “He presented the facts and potential risks, and that made us trust him even more.” Bonnie and Jim chose to proceed with Dr. Govekar’s plan.
A successful surgery
The six weeks of watchful monitoring passed uneventfully and Jim returned to the hospital for his scheduled minimally invasive procedure to repair his perforated bowel. The surgery was long, and technically difficult to perform, but when Dr. Govekar came out of the operating room he was smiling. “When I saw Dr. Govekar smile,” Bonnie remembers, “I knew it would be OK, and I just walked up and gave him a hug.”
Six months after surgery, Jim is happy to say that all is now behind him. He is enjoying riding his bike in along the Fox River bank, fishing and staying involved in the environmental movement to protect the earth.