Life-saving robotic surgery for Henny Harmsen

Henny Harmsen

A Kingston urologist told Henny Harmsen in February 2014 that he had an advanced and aggressive form of prostate cancer. 

“The severity of my cancer was frightening, and I wondered if I’d make it to my 60th birthday,” said Harmsen.

Within two weeks, he had his first consultation with Dr. Scott Morgan, an oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital and an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. His calm and caring demeanor put Harmsen at ease, and his ability to clearly discuss treatment options provided Harmsen with hope. After a battery of tests over two weeks, Dr. Morgan gave Harmsen some good news. His cancer hadn’t spread. This meant surgery was possible.

“Then surgical oncologist Dr. Rodney Breau told me I was an excellent candidate for surgery using the da Vinci robot,” said Harmsen. “This very sci-fi and leading-edge surgery was not available to me in Kingston.”

Harmsen was convinced that the da Vinci Surgical System, which would make six very small endoscopic incisions instead of a huge incision in his lower abdomen, was the best option. It meant drastically reduced blood loss and a lower possibility of infection, pain and other complications like incontinence. He had surgery using the system exactly 15 days after his first consultation with Dr. Breau.

“I was in hospital for one night, and I was back to work at the Law Society of Upper Canada 15 days later,” said Harmsen. “It was incredible.”  

The Da Vinci robot purchase was made entirely possible thanks to community support, and Harmsen and his family are eternally grateful for their generosity. In the last six years, 1,635 patients were treated at The Ottawa Hospital using this system. One thousand of these patients were treated for prostate cancer.

Although Harmsen’s surgery was a success, Dr. Breau later discovered that Harmsen’s cancer had grown outside the prostate capsule. As a result, he had a six-month course of hormone therapy and seven weeks of focused beam radiation. 

“Cancer is scary. No one wants to hear that word,” said Harmsen. “Thanks to the care I received at The Ottawa Hospital, my wife and I recently celebrated our 40th anniversary.”

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