Early detection is the key to survival when it comes to cancer. A Manitowoc woman recently became the first person in Wisconsin to benefit from some cutting-edge technology called robotic bronchoscopy. If that sounds to you like something out of the future…well, it did to her too.
“He said, ‘What we’re going to do, we’re going to take the robot and he’s going to go look down your lungs,’” explains Gale Pechinski, Manitowoc. “He was standing way back, and I thought ‘Oh my goodness!’ but I told him, I said ‘Ok let’s go!’ I was ready.”
Gale Pechinski doesn’t remember much after that about her robotic bronchoscopy procedure.
“I only remember him talking to me for a minute or two, then I was asleep,” she says.
But it’s something Dr. Raul Mendoza will likely never forget.
“I’m proud to say that I am the first doctor in Wisconsin that brought this technology,” Mendoza says.
Dr. Mendoza is one of only a few board certified interventional pulmonologists in the nation; and he’s right here in Northeast Wisconsin at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.
“This is the first robot in Wisconsin,” says Mendoza.
The technology he’s talking about is robotic bronchoscopy. Simply put, it’s a way for doctors to see deeper into a patient’s bronchial tubes and lungs with a tiny camera, operated remotely.
“I’m on the other side of the room looking at a giant screen, comparing two or three or four different screens and manipulating the robot that’s going to move slowly, but surely, to the target destination,” Mendoza explains.
That destination was a tiny shadow on Pechinski’s lung that would typically be out of reach with a traditional bronchoscopy.
“Until a few months ago this was not possible,” Mendoza says. “With the robot, it has about ten different wires attached so we can mobilize in different ways, more than we can do with just our hands,” explains Mendoza.
Pechinski’s path to this procedure has more than a few twists… but due to the diligence of an Aurora BayCare emergency room doctor and the facility’s low dose CT (LDCT) screening program, Pechinski’s lung cancer was found early.
“They found it when it was stage one and I was very lucky on that, very lucky,” Pechinski shares.
In fact, Dr. Mendoza says Aurora Baycare’s focus on early detection through LDCT, is saving lives.
“We are detecting more early stage lung cancers and we are detecting less stage four lung cancers which are, by definition, incurable,” Mendoza says.
For Pechinski, that means being around for the most precious gift of all.
“It doesn’t happen to everybody, but I’m one of the lucky ones,” Pechinski says. “I get a chance to see great-grandchildren and it’s awesome. It’s awesome.”
In addition to her two “awesome” great-grandchildren, Pechinski says one more is on the way. With all that at stake, it’s important to mention she says she feels completely safe going to Aurora BayCare for treatment, even in the middle of a pandemic. With all the safety precautions they have put in place, as Pechinski puts it, she “…can’t see how there could be a germ in there!”