Published on September 08, 2021

Morris Woman has New Taste for Life After Robotic Colon Surgery at Silver Cross

For some 20 years, Donna Bonic of Morris has had to add constant abdominal pain to her list of issues. 

“I have lupus, so just about everything that can be removed from my body, has been removed,” said Bonic. “There is a lot of scar tissue.” 

Dr. Laura Ragauskaite
Dr. Laura Ragauskaite

But in the past five years, her stomach issues grew increasingly worse, sending her to the bathroom 12 to 15 times a day because of something she ate or drank. 

“I had to plan my life around when I ate. If I had an appointment in the morning, I waited until afternoon to eat,” she said. 

Routine colonoscopies showed nothing serious, so doctors would prescribe antibiotics and other medications that worked…until the next time. 

Finally, her gastroenterologist recommended she see Laura Ragauskaite, M.D., a general surgeon on staff at the Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. 

“When she came in to the office for the appointment, Dr. Ragauskaite rolled up her chair so we were knee to knee,” Bonic recalled. “She looked and me and said, ‘I understand you have been in a lot of pain for a long time. I’m going to make you feel better.’ I almost cried.” 

Dr. Ragauskaite said it’s not unusual for patients who have abdominal disorders, especially recurrent diverticulitis, to let them go a long time. 

“Sometimes, the symptoms are so subtle,” she explained. “And doctors will give the patient antibiotics, and it will go away. But if this keeps happening, a gastroenterologist will refer them to a general surgeon. 

“I just had a patient in his 30s who needed a temporary colostomy bag for perforated diverticulitis. He had been suffering for 10 years. Mrs. Bonic was suffering for 20. No one should have to be in pain that long.”

Usually one to thoroughly vet physicians, Bonic, 63, said that first visit was all it took for her to form a trusting bond with Dr. Ragauskaite. That helped when a CT scan showed Bonic needed to have a chronically infected portion of her colon removed due to recurrent diverticulitis. 

Still, Bonic was a little nervous when she heard Dr. Ragauskaite would be using robotic surgery for a portion of the procedure. But the doctor said she has performed nearly 500 robotic surgeries, including gall bladder removal and hernias. 

“Robotic surgery gives us better visualization during the procedure, in addition to letting us perform more intricate maneuvers with smaller incisions,” said Dr. Ragauskaite. “With Mrs. Bonic, I used the robotics to move the infected portion of the colon away from organs to which it had become attached, and then removed the diseased portion of the colon. I reconnected the colon by hand, but you can do it robotically, too. It just depends.” 

Bonic said she’s glad she came in when she did. 

Dr. Ragauskaite said they caught it just in time, and I am so grateful. It was so bad, they had to give me antibiotics during surgery as well as after. I was in the hospital for less than a week after surgery.” 

By the fourth day, Bonic was eating solid food, wary of the usual stomach issues she dealt with for two decades. 

“But nothing happened,” she said. “I even had some pot roast. I went to the bathroom normally, and there was no pain and no blood. 

Dr. Ragauskaite said I could eat whatever I wanted now. Even coffee used to bother me. Now, I have a cup every morning. Sometimes two.” 

Dr. Ragauskaite said she is so pleased Bonic is doing well. She wants to make sure people pay attention to those subtle signals that can mean abdominal trouble: change in bowel habits, chronic pain, nausea, blood in the stool and low-grade fever. 

Bonic said the surgery literally has been life-changing. 

When it was time to go back to Silver Cross for her follow-up appointment, Bonic said her sister asked if she wanted a piece of toast first. 

“Out of habit, I said ‘No.’ But then I said, ‘Yes, I can.’ I feel like a new person. All that time I spent in pain. It’s like a miracle.” 

Bonic now realizes her pain was shared throughout her family (husband Martin, three grown children and three grandchildren). 

“My 6-year-old granddaughter came to visit, and she asked me, ‘Does this mean you’re not going to have to go to the bathroom all the time?’ And I said, ‘Yes, it does.’ 

“She gave me a big hug and said, ‘I’m so happy you feel better.’ 

“That made it all worth it.”

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