Boy names Mercy Folsom robot 'Surgeo' -- and sees how he operates

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

Hunter McGee looked through the enclosed viewfinder of the million-dollar surgical robot, commanding mechanical arms to place toy jacks in buckets.

"I ain't going down without a fight," the fifth-grader called from inside the machine.

Hunter won a contest to name a new surgical robot at Mercy Hospital of Folsom and received robotic surgery lessons as a prize. The 10-year-old's entry, "Surgeo," beat "Stitch" and about 250 other submissions from elementary school students in the Buckeye Union, Folsom Cordova and Rescue Unified school districts, hospital President Michael Ricks said.

"It just makes sense," said Hunter, who attends Oak Meadow Elementary School in El Dorado Hills, with a shrug.

He wore a surgical cap and sky-blue nurse scrubs over his clothes and challenged Ricks to beat his score on the robot training software.

"He's definitely competitive like surgeons are," said Dr. Tim Phelan, an OB/GYN at Mercy Hospital.

Phelan, who said he uses the new robot for hysterectomies, said he was the first Mercy Hospital of Folsom doctor to operate with the machine after the hospital bought it for more than $1 million in June. "Surgeo" has been used in 126 operations since, Ricks said.

"The equipment allows us to do more complicated surgeries in a less-invasive way," said Phelan.

He said he trained on pigs before performing his first procedure on a patient.

He said many of his patients are intrigued when they learn a robot will help perform their surgery.

Surgeons use stirrups around their thumbs and forefingers and foot pedals from a console to operate the three robotic arms on "Surgeo," produced by Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

"The biggest change for the surgeon is to be stepping away from the patient's bedside and do surgery," Phelan said.

He said the technology helps him make more precise, smaller cuts that allow patients to go home sooner.

Mercy Hospital also awarded Oak Meadow Elementary School $500 as part of its student's prize. As Hunter experimented with the surgical robot, Principal Barbara Narez said the school would look for ways to give students more hands-on experience with science.

"He's going to remember this for the rest of his life," she said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Dan Hill



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