Photograph by H. Scott Heist
It was early in the year and Walter M. Kressman, Jr. was ready to take 2010 by the horns. He was gearing up for another season running the family farm in Kintnersville when he was unexpectedly stopped in his tracks.
“All of a sudden, I’m not in control,” says Walter, known to many by his middle name, Myron.
During his routine annual physical, Myron’s family physician, Joseph O’Neill, DO, found something wrong with his prostate. It was a nodule. He was referred to Doylestown Hospital urologist Kevin Fitzgerald, MD, and had an initial biopsy the following rainy Tuesday. Determined to go about his decades-old routine on the farm, Myron was riding the tractor when the call from Dr. Fitzgerald came in a few days later.
It was transitional cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Myron came to Doylestown Hospital for more tests, including a CAT scan and MRI. Dr. Fitzgerald ordered a further biopsy to determine the course of action.
The peas needed to be cultivated. Spring is a busy time on a farm. Myron would use the tractor for a while, then rest, then work some more. “I needed to plant corn,” he remembers. Each spring he plants between 12 and 15 acres of corn, sewing seeds every five days to ensure a long and bountiful growing season.
It was late April when Myron, his wife, LeeAnn, and his sister, Ruth Ann Siegfried, a nurse, met with Dr. Fitzgerald. “He explained everything,” Myron says. “And then there was silence. I said, ‘What can I do?’” Dr. Fitzgerald explained the prostate and possibly the bladder would have to be removed if the cancer had spread. He suggested Myron was a good candidate for minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery.
Dr. Fitzgerald performed the first robotic surgical procedure in Bucks County on December 18, 2008 using the da Vinci S Surgical System. The system allows Doylestown Hospital surgeons to build on their many years of clinical experience with state-of-the-art technology. The da Vinci surgical system consists of a console where the surgeon sits; a patient-side cart with four interactive robotic arms; a 3-D vision system (video camera and monitor); and instrumentation with a range of motion of almost 360°.
The system enhances the surgeon's ability to maneuver in tiny spaces with increased mobility and flexibility. The powerful 3-D magnification gives a surgeon a clear view of the network of nerves surrounding the prostate, helping to lessen the side effects of surgery. For most patients the da Vinci Surgical System offers several potential benefits over traditional surgery including decreased post-operative pain, shorter hospital stay and less risk of infection. A faster recovery means a quicker return to normal activities.
That was good for Myron. He had to get the potatoes planted. After a three-hour surgery on Thursday, April 29th, Dr. Fitzgerald came in to talk to him. The doctor had a smile on his face. Myron asked if he still had his bladder. He remembers Dr. Fitzgerald saying, “Yes, you do.” On Friday afternoon, Myron went home to the farm. All subsequent biopsies and blood work were good. The cancer had not spread.
Myron had enjoyed good health for most of his 63 years. He was accustomed to hard work and the rewards of living close to the land. He had no symptoms. His father had prostate cancer, but at a much older age. Myron knows the value of that annual physical. And he’s glad he chose Doylestown Hospital for his care.
“I’d recommend it to anyone,” Myron says. “I couldn’t have asked for anything any better.”
He’s also glad Doylestown’s skilled physicians offer the option of da Vinci surgery. The only visible signs of his prostatectomy were five small incision marks.
Myron’s daughters, Laura and Rachael, were both born at Doylestown Hospital. Both of his grandsons were, too. Trauger’s Farm has been in his wife’s family for seven generations. The two grandsons make it nine generations. They’ve been a big part of the Doylestown Farmers Market for more than 30 years. Myron is looking forward to another busy summer working the farm’s 60 acres of vegetables, fruits and flowers.
Myron’s experience with cancer has strengthened his faith. He had a lot of people praying for him, he notes, and was visited often by his pastor. “It all helps,” he says. He’s also learned to appreciate life a little bit more.
“Because you take things for granted too many times.”