I started having stomach problems in the fall of 2009, and went to see a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome. I have a history of cancer in my family, however, and was concerned that the bloating and pain could be associated with that. So to appease me, the doctor ordered an ultrasound scan. When the results came back, he told me that everything was fine with my digestive system, but that I had an enlarged left kidney and needed to see a urologist.
I consulted with a urologist in Manhattan, who did a CT scan and a renal scan that confirmed I had a congenital blockage of my ureteropelvic junction that was causing urine to back up into my kidney. Apparently the swollen kidney was pressing on other nearby organs, which might have caused my stomach symptoms. The urologist recommended pyeloplasty surgery to remove the obstruction, so I met with an associate of his who does robotic pyeloplasty—but he'd only done the robotic procedure five or six times. Doing my due diligence, I looked for another surgeon who could provide a second opinion. Dr. Stifelman came up prominently in my Internet research, and he was also recommended by the father of a friend of mine, who's a cardiologist on Long Island.
I made an appointment to see Dr. Stifelman, and was impressed with his personality and his experience. He told me he'd done around 100 robotic pyeloplasties with an extremely high success rate, which I found comforting. He went into great detail with me about what the procedure and recovery would be like, showed me some videos of prior procedures he'd done, and explained that he teaches the procedure to other physicians. His extensive experience, along with the fact that I related well to him personality-wise, convinced me that he was the surgeon for me.
I decided to schedule the surgery for the Friday of Presidents Day weekend, to minimize my time away from work. The procedure itself went very smoothly, although I was a little nervous, since this was my first major surgery. When I came out of surgery, I didn't really have any pain from the incisions themselves—although I did have some painful gas in my abdomen, caused by the fact that my bowels had gone to sleep during the procedure. I had the surgery on Friday and went home on Sunday. Seeing blood in my urine for the first few days afterwards was a little unsettling, even though I'd be warned about that. But that soon went away, as did a slight fever that I'd been running. I started walking around the hallways of my apartment building as soon as I got home, and gradually got used to the sensation of the temporary stent in my kidney.
After one week, I was feeling much better, and that following Monday I was back at my job, missing only four days of work. By four weeks after the operation, when the stent was taken out, I felt completely normal in every way. Since then, I've been great. My "irritable bowel syndrome" has completely subsided, so I'm thinking I never really had it in the first place—it was all due to my urinary blockage.
Dr. Stifelman was terrific throughout. He has an excellent bedside manner—at 7:30 the day after my procedure he came in to see how I was doing. At that point he took me off morphine and put me on Percocet, told me I needed to start walking around, and gave me some other goals to focus on. He made me feel comfortable going into the procedure, and comfortable afterwards. I'm sharing my story because I want to let the world know how good my experience with him was!