Young mom makes time for robotic hysterectomy

WORTHINGTON -- As a vibrant, energetic young mother, Jessica Matt doesn't exactly fit one's mental image of the typical hysterectomy patient.Then again, she didn't have a typical hysterectomy.When it became clear a few years ago that Matt, despit...

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Jessica Matt stands with equipment that performs robotic hysterectomies at Sanford Worthington Medical Center. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - As a vibrant, energetic young mother, Jessica Matt doesn’t exactly fit one’s mental image of the typical hysterectomy patient.
Then again, she didn’t have a typical hysterectomy.
When it became clear a few years ago that Matt, despite her relative youth and excellent overall health profile, required the ultimate “female surgery,” she became the first woman at Sanford Worthington Medical Center (SWMC) to undergo what is known as a robotic hysterectomy.
But the December 2012 procedure didn’t require her to languish for days in a hospital bed or worry about follow-up bleeding.
In fact, less than two days later she was happily attending her kids’ Christmas program with few, if any, signs that she’d recently undergone something significant.
“I was in nursing school at the time,” said Matt, now 31, “so we scheduled it in December when I had four weeks off from school.
“I took my finals a little early but because the surgery wasn’t very invasive, I was able to do Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, that kind of thing, shortly afterward.
“It was amazing; I couldn’t believe how well I healed, and there were only four little incisions and no external sutures at all, just surgical glue.”
Matt, who grew up in Connecticut until the age of 14 before moving with her family to the south-central Wyoming town of Rawlins, found her way to Minnesota courtesy of her husband, Wesley Matt, a native of Jackson.
“We have a blended family with four daughters,” she explained, including his 9 and 12-year-old daughters (Kendall and Ana), her 9-year-old daughter (Teja) and their 7-year-old daughter (Briley).
Having lived in Lakefield for the past seven years, Rawlins admitted she doesn’t love Minnesota’s humidity and bugs but enjoys the surrounding trees and water.
“And I like the small communities here, and the fact my kids get to attend small schools,” she added.
Although Matt was able to conceive and bear two children, she was still in her early 20s when it became clear she might be a candidate for a hysterectomy.
“Both of my pregnancies were high risk,” she reported.
“I had post-partum hemorrhaging with the birth of my first child, which is not common.”
Her second pregnancy and delivery were also difficult and termed high risk, and although she would have liked to have another baby, “The doctors said it wasn’t safe for me because there was no telling if I’d hemorrhage again or not,” she said.
“I didn’t want to risk something happening to me, and I’m already blessed to have kids who are healthy.”
Enter the SWMC staff and Dr. Rea Sebata, a Sanford obstetrics/gynecology specialist.
“It took a year to work through all the stuff necessary to be sure we were on track for insurance coverage for my hysterectomy,” Matt said.
“That wasn’t an easy process, but the Sanford staff members and nurses were all so helpful and nice and were good patient advocates, and Dr. Sebata is a great physician to work with.”
Even so, Matt understandably had some feelings of trepidation as the procedure approached.
“At my pre-op appointment, I learned that I’d have the first robotic hysterectomy to be performed in Worthington,” said Matt.
“There was a team of doctors from Worthington and Sioux Falls involved, but I knew I was in good hands because I trusted Dr. Sebata; he is honest and upfront, and I trusted him as a doctor.
“I never questioned his judgment.”
A robotic hysterectomy is basically conducted laparoscopically, with only a few small incisions made. The robotic piece comes into play because the operating surgeon uses a computer to control the surgical instruments, all the while commanding a three-dimensional, high-definition view inside the patient’s body.
“When I woke up, my hips were a little sore and I had some minor swelling in my face from the positioning,” shared Matt.
“But really, I had very few issues at all - I hardly needed any pain medication - and by that night I was up and walking around.
“I walked out of the hospital feeling good in less than 24 hours.”
Women who had hysterectomies 20 or more years earlier might be shocked to hear Matt’s report, as it was formerly not uncommon for such surgeries to require three or four days of hospitalization and weeks of uncomfortable recovery, sometimes with complications from bleeding or ruptured stitches.
“I’m sure being young helped to an extent, and my blood loss was minimal, and that helped, too,” observed Matt.
“A woman I’d worked with in a nursing home had a [more traditional] hysterectomy the same week I had, and she was on pain medication for several days afterward.”
Thankfully, the hysterectomy did what it was supposed to do, and Matt has had no further issues with bleeding since then.
“When I went for my post-op visit with Dr. Sebata, he said, ‘You won’t have to come back to see me anymore,’ and I was a little sad about that,” she laughed.
But fate had something different in mind for Matt; after finishing her nursing degree at Minnesota West in May 2013, Matt was hired at SWMC. She has now worked in the SWMC’s Women’s Center for the past 18 months, and she is also an instructor for the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Minnesota West.
Additionally, she is working toward finishing her bachelor’s degree at Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall; she is due to graduate in July.
“So now I get to work with Dr. Sebata,” smiled Matt, who finds that her personal experiences - going through two pregnancies and births but also having a hysterectomy - give her additional empathy when dealing with patients.
“Not too long after I had my hysterectomy, a woman who was also on the younger side came in to have a hysterectomy and she was a little worried, wanting to know everything would be OK,” recalled Matt.
“I told her my story and afterwards she said, ‘Thank you so much, I feel so much better,’” recounted Matt.
“It was nice to be able to relate to the situation and offer some support.”
As for being the first woman to have a robotic hysterectomy at SWMC, Matt is pleased that the procedure went so well.
“We have terrific medical services available here, and it was so nice to have it done right in Worthington without having to travel further, because we have busy lives and four children at home,” said Matt.
“I had minimal down time and was able to quickly get back into my normal routine. I know first hand, both as a patient and employee, that our Women’s Center takes good care of its patients.”

Related Topics: HEALTH
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