Published on August 05, 2021

Finding gynecologic relief through minimally invasive surgery close to home

Nicole Schneider felt she was held hostage by the large uterine fibroids that controlled and limited her daily life.

Nicole Schneider

Between the intense cramping, pain and the threat of unexpected heavy bleeding, she couldn’t leave her house with confidence or do many activities she once enjoyed.

She thought her condition was one she would have to live with – until MaineGeneral OB/GYN’s Dr. Romeo Lucas assured her that a minimally invasive surgical approach could take care of her problem instead of a more extensive open surgery that would have her recovering for up to 10 weeks.

She had surgery to remove the fibroids and her uterus in October 2019 and her life hasn’t been the same since – in the most positive of ways.

“I can live spontaneously again,” the 49-year-old Augusta resident said. “I can get up and go and not have the uncertainty about how my day will go. And I’m happy to share my story because I had such a great experience.”

Living with fibroids

Schneider said she lived with a worsening condition for years before her surgery.

“It was making my life miserable,” she said. “One doctor said I needed to have a complete hysterectomy and that my surgery couldn’t be done laparoscopically because my fibroids and uterus were too big.”

Schneider knew she needed help but didn’t want a more involved surgery and lengthy recovery.

Her daughter suggested she contact Lucas to get a second opinion and see if he could offer another option.

After reviewing Schneider’s medical record, Lucas felt confident he could do the surgery laparoscopically using MaineGeneral’s surgical robot.

Technology, skill and a methodical approach

Lucas, who performs surgery at both the Alfond Center for Health in Augusta and Thayer Center for Health in Waterville, said he knew Schneider’s surgery would be daunting because of the circumstances. He still believed it was doable thanks to MaineGeneral’s investment in state-of-the-art technology, his advanced training and the support of his surgical team.

“I knew I could take care of this really massive uterus for her, but in a minimally-invasive way that would allow her to have less pain and be discharged the same day," he said. 

Romeo Lucas, DO, MaineGeneral OB/GYNUsing MaineGeneral’s surgical robot, Lucas carefully removed a 2,000-gram uterus and fibroids in pieces through an abdominal surgical incision the width of two fingers. Lucas said that, in relative terms, the organ was the size of a small watermelon.

“I knew this case would require the best equipment and supplies, the best visualization and the knowledge, technique and patience to give her the best surgery she could get while sparing her several weeks or months of recovery,” he said. “Thankfully, MaineGeneral ensures we have the tools we need to get her home the same day, with less pain, less bleeding, less risk of infection, less medication, and with a quicker recovery.”

A new lease on life

Schneider remembers how difficult her life was before surgery and marvels at how she feels now, nearly two years after her surgery and recovery. She’s also amazed that she could return to work full-time just three weeks after her surgery.

“Now I’m more active than I was 20 years ago, so having the procedure definitely brought some quality of life back,” she said.

Lucas added that Schneider’s experience is not unique with regard to long-suffering patients having a new lease on life after surgery.

“I just saw another patient for a follow-up appointment and she said, ‘Doc, I feel great, better than I have in decades. I can’t believe I went this long suffering with my uterus,’” Lucas said, “and Nicole was the same way. She told me she couldn’t believe she went as long as she did before having surgery because she was really suffering in a number of ways - some of which she had accepted as normal."

“I’m proud and happy I can offer this type of surgery for patients – close to home,” Lucas added, "and I'm really enthusiastic about being able to do this for folks because it's really amazing and life-changing. 

Learn more about MaineGeneral’s women’s health services.