Darrell Ritchie was diagnosed with stage three esophageal cancer this year and while the initial prognosis was not the best the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran recently became the first person to undergo robotic esophagogastrectomy procedure in Atlanta, and he said his recovery has been nothing short of a miracle.
The procedure, which was performed at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta involves the removal of the lower part of the esophagus and the upper part of the stomach during surgery after which the esophagus is reconnected to the remaining stomach.
The robotic esophagogastrectomy allows the surgeon to do all this using small abdominal and chest incisions as opposed to multiple large abdominal and chest incisions made with the traditional surgical method.
“The robotic esophagogastrectomy procedure improves the chance of survival, by decreasing the morbidity of the operation for our patients,” said Dr. Saeid Khansarinia, the cardiothoracic surgeon at Piedmont Atlanta who performed Ritchie’s surgery alongside general surgeon Dr. Kevin McGill in a statement.
Ritchie said his bout with cancer has led to a closer walk with God and an opportunity to spend the rest of his life in a way that honors how grateful he is to be a success story.
Richie said Thanksgiving holds an even bigger significance given his health problems.
But enjoying the holiday season with his wife of 19 years, Jan, his four children and his three grandchildren is more than he could ever hope for.
“I’m thankful that I can stay here with my wife and family,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie said the support of his family and his church, Woodstock Christian Church has helped him build his faith and weather the storm of his ordeal.
“God gave me a double blessing,” Ritchie said. “I couldn’t ask for a more supportive wife and family and church that have lifted me up through prayer and encouragement.”
Ritchie said in a society where people often forget to give thanks for the good in life, his story of survival serves as a testament to be grateful.
“You only go around once in life, and it doesn’t really last long if you think about it,” Ritchie said.