December 1, 2021 by John Fernandez
For women wanting children, any type of gynecologic problem requiring surgery begs the question: Will I be able to have a baby? Luckily for two South Florida women, the answer from doctors was a resounding yes, thanks to advances in robotic surgery pioneered at Baptist Health.
Anaelvys Espinoza-Ruiz was 29 when a cervical cancer diagnosis sent her world crashing down.
Newly engaged, Ms. Espinoza-Ruiz knew her husband-to-be wanted children. With a cancerous cervix, she thought, carrying a pregnancy was out of the question.
Luckily, her gynecologist referred her to Ricardo Estape, M.D., a gynecologic cancer surgeon who uses fertility-sparing techniques to treat cervical cancer in its early stages.
Dr. Estape, medical director of Baptist Health’s Center for Robotic Surgery, used a robotic approach to remove Ms. Espinoza-Ruiz’s cervix at South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women & Infants. Known as a trachelectomy, the procedure involves removing the cervix and attaching the uterus to the upper part of the vaginal wall. Once a woman who has had a trachelectomy gets pregnant, a cerclage, or stitch, is put in place to keep the baby in the uterus for the duration of the pregnancy.
Dr. Estape credits the use of the robot with more precise cancer removal, less blood loss, fewer complications and a quicker recovery. “It’s a great tool for surgeons, but it also benefits our patients, too,” he said.
Ms. Espinoza-Ruiz thought getting pregnant would be challenging. Yet 11 months after her surgery, she became pregnant with her son Justin, who is now 5. And almost five years after her surgery, she was pregnant again, this time with her daughter Melanie, 17 months.
“I am so grateful,” she said of her miracle children, “first to God, then to Dr. Estape.”
Shirley Lampert, 38, and her husband tried to have a baby for several years when her fertility specialist discovered that benign tumors in the lining of her uterus were significantly lowering her chances of conceiving.
These tumors, known as fibroids, often have no symptoms and require no treatment. In many women, however, they can cause bleeding, incontinence and pain. Submucosal fibroids, like those plaguing Ms. Lampert, can change the shape of the uterus, interfere with sperm movement and affect implantation of an embryo. Additionally, they caused her extreme pain.
“It was like an electric shock,” she said. “That’s the only way I can explain it. It would be so painful. Sometimes I’d be sitting, and I would literally jump out of my chair. My only option was to have them removed.”
Ms. Lampert’s doctor sent her to South Miami Hospital’s Fibroid Center, where a team of doctors reviewed her case and recommended surgery as her best treatment option. Gynecologist Rafael Perez, M.D., medical director of the Center, performed a fertility-sparing robotic myomectomy to remove her fibroids in 2010.
“The robotic approach means we don’t have to make a large incision to get to the fibroids for removal,” Dr. Perez said. “We take them out without causing trauma to the rest of the womb, all in preparation for a future pregnancy.”
After waiting more than a year to ensure that the lining of the uterus was strong enough to support a pregnancy, the Lamperts again tried to conceive.
Ten months ago, Ms. Lampert gave birth to a baby girl, Lily Sandra Lampert. “She’s gorgeous,” Ms. Lampert said. “It’s a miracle to us.”