I was really lucky. When I walked through the doors for the first time as a patient at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital, I knew exactly what to expect.

For the last several years, it’s been my privilege to work as a freelance writer with the great people of Froedtert South. I’ve interviewed dozens of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals – and then written about the amazing care they provide every day to people in southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

I’ve also met many patients – of every age and from every walk of life – who consistently describe the people at Froedtert South with words such as competent, kind, compassionate, caring.

So, I knew what I was getting into.

Jeff Jackson Freelance writer for Froedtert South

Jeff Jackson Freelance writer for Froedtert South

A leap forward

And “what I was getting into” was a leading-edge procedure to solve a problem I was experiencing that is very common among men my age: an enlarged prostate – officially known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH for short).

For a few years, I had suffered with nearly all the common BPH symptoms: getting out of bed frequently at night to urinate, a weak stream, and sudden urges to urinate. Increasingly, I found myself planning most of what I did – travel, hikes, nearly everything – around the availability of a bathroom.

I’d been seeing a urologist – an expert in these matters – for a few years near my home, which is about an hour drive from Pleasant Prairie. He prescribed medication – which is almost always the first step in BPH treatment – but I didn’t tolerate the dizziness those medications can cause in some people. I was ready to take the next step, but before I could talk with my urologist about options, he retired. Fortunately, I knew exactly what to do.

A top-notch urology team

Over the years, I’ve interviewed three urologists at Froedtert South: Dr. Eric Kirshenbaum, Dr. Marc Nelson, and Dr. Ronald Kim. They’re all excellent specialists and wonderful people. I would have been happy to have any one of them as my next urologist, but it just so happened that Dr. Kim was the one I interviewed next. At the end of our interview, I asked him if he would see me as a patient.

His team responded so quickly that I was able to see Dr. Kim just a few days later. Like he does with all his patients, Dr. Kim talked with me about my symptoms and what I hoped treatment would achieve. A short time after that, Dr. Kim and his great staff performed some tests to determine the size and shape of my prostate.

“You were a fairly textbook case,” Dr. Kim said. “Your prostate had roughly doubled in size since you were young, and it had expanded into your bladder, because it didn’t have any place else to grow. This is very common as men age, but it happens at different rates,” he said. “I’ve treated some patients with prostates that were twice the size of yours.”

The right procedure for me

Discussing the various treatment options with Dr. Kim, we decided on what’s called Aquablation.

“This procedure is relatively new –it’s been in use for about five years or so,” Dr. Kim said. “Aquablation uses water to reduce the size of a patient’s prostate – not heat or electricity or laser energy used by older procedures. With this new technology, we can achieve the same excellent results while avoiding the sexual side effects that other procedures can cause,” he said.

“Men considering a prostate procedure also need to know that Aquablation is different from prostatectomy – a procedure we perform often in cases of prostate cancer – in this important way: prostatectomy has a somewhat higher risk of urinary incontinence,” Dr. Kim said. “With Aquablation, the risk of incontinence isn’t quite zero, but it is very, very low.”

Ronald Kim, M.D. Urologist at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital

Ronald Kim, M.D. Urologist at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital

How Aquablation works

On the day of the procedure, I checked in early at the Schmidt Surgery Center at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital. The staff and nurses were so friendly and helpful getting me ready for surgery. I even got a visit in pre-op from Dr. Jonathan Ben-Zev, an orthopedic surgeon. The week before, at the end of an interview with him, I’d told him that I would be having a procedure at the hospital the following week. He stopped in to give me encouragement, and called me after surgery to see how I was doing. Such a great guy – and so typical of all the caring people at Froedtert South.

I was fully sedated for the procedure, but here is how Dr. Kim describes how Aquablation works.

“The device first makes a precise map of the tissue on the prostate that we want to remove,” Dr. Kim said. “That could be to a depth of one centimeter at one precise point, and one millimeter over, it could be to a depth of two centimeters.”

“The technology is fully automated and very finely tuned to closely follow the rounded contour of the prostate as it removes tissue,” he said. “Think of it as a power washer that uses a high-pressure stream of room-temperature water. The technology very precisely maintains the right water pressure and distance to remove the exact amount of tissue that we want to eliminate – no more and no less,” he said

“This procedure eliminates prostate tissue very quickly,” Dr. Kim said. “In your case, it only took eight minutes. The longest procedure I’ve ever performed took only fifteen minutes.”

The road to full recovery

My next recollection is waking up in the recovery room with a very pleasant and calming nurse feeding me ice chips. Very soon after that, I was moved to a comfortable room where I was hooked up to a system that continuously circulated water through my system to reduce the normal bleeding from the procedure. The following afternoon – just a little more than twenty-four hours after surgery – I was headed home. And without a catheter!

As with all prostate procedures, complete healing takes a while. Some of the same symptoms – urgency with me, for example – lingered for a few weeks. But I knew immediately that my prostate problems were behind me.

Zero urinary problems

“I tell patients that it took years for their prostate to grow to the point that it started causing their symptoms – and that those symptoms won’t disappear overnight,” Dr. Kim said. “In the first few weeks after surgery, many patients experience some of the same symptoms as before – including urgency and frequency – but those symptoms disappear.”

For me, the proof is in the pudding. Today, I have zero urgency, a normal stream, no getting up at night, no unwelcome side effects, and no planning everything I do around finding a bathroom.

I’m so glad that I didn’t put off doing something about my enlarged prostate any longer than I did. And I’m so happy the procedure was performed by Dr. Kim – a brilliant doctor, a skilled surgeon, and an excellent communicator.

“I see some patients who have suffered too long to do something about their prostate,” Dr. Kim said. “Sometimes they’ve put it off so long that some of the problems can’t be fixed.”

So don’t wait

If you are suffering from the same maddening urinary symptoms that I was experiencing, here’s my message to you: run – don’t walk – run to the great urology team at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital to see if Aquablation is the right solution – as it most certainly was for me.

According to the National Institutes of Health:

  • BPH is the most common prostate problem for men older than age fifty.
  • It affects about fifty percent of men between the ages of fifty-one and sixty, and up to ninety percent of men older than eighty.
  • Men with symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia should see a health care provider.
  • Researchers have not found a way to prevent BPH
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