When Lisa Cilia made a new year’s resolution to get fit, she had no idea how the pledge would change her life. The 44-year-old mother of three attended her first zumba exercise class in 2013 with a friend. “Afterward, there was blood in my urine and I felt awful for days,” she remembers. Passing it off as a consequence of renewed activity, she did nothing. But the symptoms persisted, even after less rigorous exercise such as walking.

In the spring, Lisa visited her family doctor, who diagnosed a urinary tract infection and ordered bloodwork and a urine test. Lisa spent the next several months on progressively stronger doses of antibiotics, to no avail. An ultrasound revealed a handful of small kidney stones, but nothing that would explain the bleeding and fatigue.

Lisa was referred to Mackenzie Health urologist Dr. Michael Kogon.

“He sent me straight for an X-ray and then asked me to come right back up to see him.” The scan revealed something Dr. Kogon rarely sees — calcified stones called staghorns fused together and filling multiple branches of the renal pelvis of both kidneys. “It was like someone poured concrete into every cavity,” Lisa explains.

The diagnosis was further complicated by the fact that the staghorn stones were present in both kidneys and at risk of causing a complete blockage in one.

Fortunately, Mackenzie Health is a leader in minimally invasive surgery to treat kidney stones. Using high-tech scopes with cameras and specialized surgical instruments inserted through tiny incisions, doctors remove stones that can’t be treated through non-surgical means.

“People need to know that this quality of care exists, that you don’t need to leave our community to receive it.”

Mackenzie Health’s urologists, including Dr. Kogon, treat more complex kidney stones than any other community or tertiary care hospital in the Greater Toronto Area, removing stones that a decade ago would have warranted a large wrap-around incision, seven-day hospital stay and weeks of recovery.

Lisa’s first surgery was expected to last a couple of hours. It took Dr. Kogon more than five hours to remove the largest stone piece by piece. Six weeks later, she returned for surgery on the second kidney. During a third minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Kogon inserted stents to help any remaining stone fragments pass from the kidneys through the ureter.

 

All told, Lisa spent just two nights in hospital and six weeks off work, equal to the recovery time typically associated with a single open kidney surgery. Three years later, she’s healthy and active, with just three tiny scars to show for her experience.

“I’m so grateful for Dr. Kogon’s expertise and compassion,” she says. “He understood the need to preserve both my kidneys and get me home faster to my husband and kids.”

She’s especially thankful to have received such exceptional care close to her home in Maple, without the need for costly and timeconsuming trips to a downtown Toronto hospital.