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Made for more good nights

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Ruthann Brown’s condition haunted her sleep patterns. Robotic surgery changed her life.

For months, Ruthann Brown spent her nights slumped upright on a couch, while her husband slept in the master bedroom.

It wasn’t by choice.

The acid reflux she had been managing for four years had gotten so bad that she could no longer lay down. Even on the best days, her stomach acid would climb up her esophagus, burning her throat.

When Ruthann laid down to bed, it was as if a valve opened, wreaking havoc on her.

That’s when Ruthann met Dr. Andrea Pakula and elected to have a life-changing robotic surgery at Adventist Health Simi Valley.

“Now, I get to sleep in my bed with my husband again,” Ruthann said. “We’ve got our life back.”

Dr. Pakula, Adventist Health Simi Valley’s director of robotic surgery, performed multiple procedures during Ruthann’s single operation, including a hiatal hernia repair; an esophageal hernia repair; and a gastric bypass procedure to help control weight gain caused by a thyroid disease.

Before her procedures, Ruthann was attempting to manage through medication and diet to no avail.

“Dr. Pakula really explained to me that something more needed to be done,” Ruthann said.

And after hearing that Dr. Pakula performs procedures robotically, Ruthann – who works in automation – was on board.

“I live, eat and breathe automation, so when Dr. Pakula started talking about robotic surgery, I knew the reliability and how it can smooth things out,” Ruthann said. “It was so comforting to me.”

But Dr. Pakula doesn’t just perform robotic surgery – she’s an expert on it. She’s one of just a handful of surgeons across the nation who teaches other doctors how to perform complex hernia repairs on the Intuitive da Vinci Xi robot. The instrument provides more precision for surgeons like Dr. Pakula, and better outcomes for patients like Ruthann.

Just a month into recovery, she had lost 20 pounds, was getting better sleep than she had in months and felt more alert.

“It’s not that restful to sleep sitting up. I was sleep-deprived,” Ruthann said. “It’s amazing what your quality of sleep can do for your life. Now, I have less brain fog and everything is just clear.”

Ruthann said she’s grateful to have had her procedures performed at Adventist Health Simi Valley, where she has lived since 1967. She even delivered her daughter at the hospital 34 years ago.

Her only regret, she said, was not seeking out surgery sooner.