Oak Meadow Elementary student Hunter McGee, 10, stands by Surgeo, the robotic operating system he named at Mercy Folsom. Village Life photo by Noel Stack

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5th grader plays ‘Surgeon for a Day’

By From page A1 | February 27, 2013

Dressed in scrubs and not afraid to take on a challenge, 10-year-old Hunter McGee eagerly tried out Mercy Folsom’s new da Vinci Si Surgical System Wednesday morning.

His task: Pick up a penny and move tiny rings from one spongy cone to another.

The Oak Meadow Elementary fifth-grader won his spot in the surgeon’s seat by winning Mercy’s Name the Robot Contest. More than 200 students from the Folsom-Cordova, Rescue and Buckeye school districts entered the contest. Hunter’s name — Surgeo — came out on top.

“When I asked Hunter how he came up with the name he said, ‘It just makes sense,’” noted Mercy Hospital of Folsom President Michael Ricks at the hospital’s event celebrating Hunter. “You can’t beat that logic.”

In addition to getting first-hand experience as “Surgeon for a Day,” Hunter received a $50 Target gift card. Oak Meadow Principal Barbara Narez received a $500 check.

Since acquiring the it last summer, Mercy Folsom surgeons have complete 126 surgeries using the da Vinci Si Surgical System. Dr. Timothy Phelan, OB/GYN, was the first to use Surgeo. Phelan’s daughter also participated in the naming contest though, the doctor joked, he didn’t think her suggestion of “Timothy” (after her dad) would fly with the Mercy staff. One name that did give Surgeo a run for its money was “Stitch,” which came in a close second.

Regardless of the name, Phelan said the surgical system has been a great asset. “It allows us to do more complicated surgeries in a less invasive way,” Phelan explained. “It’s been a great benefit for our patients.”

According to information provided by Mercy Folsom, “In real-time, the system translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into more precise movements of the miniaturized instruments inside the patient, resulting in smaller, more precise incisions, less pain and quicker recovery time for patients. At Mercy Folsom, the da Vinci system is used for surgical procedures such as hysterectomy, prostate gland removal and gall bladder removal.”

Surgeo comes in three unites — the surgeon’s console, the patient cart with four robotic arms (three instrument arms and a state-of-the-art camera) and a vision cart with a 24-inch screen. Mercy also has a da Vinci simulator that surgeons use to “warm up” before surgery, explained Marcus Wellman, clinical sales representative for Intuitive Surgical, the company that produces the da Vinci system.

Hunter also spent some time on the simulator, earning a 96 on one task — a score Ricks tried to beat during the demonstration. The fifth-grader confidently said the hospital president wouldn’t top his score.

In between penny tasks and moving objects into petri dishes on the simulator, Hunter said, “I think it’s pretty fun.”

Fun indeed, his family —  mom Wednesday Oakes, step-dad John McCarthy and grandparents Ed and Gay Wittyard — had a hard time getting him out of the surgeon’s chair. Oakes said this experience fits well into Hunter’s future plans, explaining, “So far, he said he wants to be a video game tester.”

Noel Stack


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