As a part-time, then a full-time resident of the Hudson Valley for more than 75 years, Fred Weissman, 82, enjoyed familiar surroundings. Thanks to the highly-trained and skilled medical team and access to cutting-edge technology at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall, he was able to undergo a complex robotic procedure that removed his bladder and prostate without removing him from his community and support system.
After two years of treatment for various urological symptoms by his primary care physician and urologist, a biopsy discovered Stage 3 bladder cancer in 2017. After discussing the options with his wife, Barbara Johnson, and oncologist, it became clear that either a partial bladder removal, which would take out just the affected area, or a total bladder removal was necessary. After consulting with their medical team, they determined the risk of a second procedure outweighed the benefit of keeping part of his bladder. Fred and Barbara decided a total removal was their best course of action.
Aside from the normal concern and anxiety that comes with such a diagnosis, Fred and Barbara were even more worried about the location of their initial treatment suggestions.
“After explaining what his options were, the next question was where,” Barbara recalled. “The first response everyone has tends to be New York City, at which point both of us blanched.”
That is when Fred and Barbara first heard the name of Dr. Jaspreet Singh, Co-Chair of Urology Services at MSLC. Fred’s oncologist suggested he go visit Dr. Singh, and that the procedure he needed could potentially be done right here in the Hudson Valley.
“What we heard about Dr. Singh was that he was the best in the county, and the only one performing robotic surgery,” Fred said.
After his oncologist’s recommendation, the couple traveled to Dr. Singh’s office in Newburgh to meet and talk through what could be done.
“We got together with Dr. Singh, and I was very impressed with his attentiveness and his knowledge,” Fred said. “He agreed that the surgery was the best course for me. From what we heard about his abilities, particularly being the only one in the entire county who was a master, never mind having the ability to just perform robotic surgery, we decided to go ahead with it.”
It was not only Dr. Singh’s technical abilities and reputation that impressed the husband and wife. His reassuring and confident demeanor also played a key role in their decision to pursue this surgical option.
“Dr. Singh was extremely calm. He was gentle, yet firm, with Fred,” Barbara said, describing their interactions. “He didn’t sugarcoat anything, but it was very carefully explained. All our questions were answered. He has a great bedside manner.”
Fred arrived at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital where Dr. Singh performed a robotic cystoprostatectomy, removing both the bladder and prostate. He finished the six-and-one-half hour operation with an ileal conduit formation, a system of urinary drainage created using the small intestine.
“He was impressive as a human being, as well as a surgeon,” Fred explained. “He did a brilliant job."
Fred spent seven days at the SLCH Newburgh campus, recovering both in the Intensive Care Unit and 2 North stepdown unit. Their experience with the entire team moved the couple to write a letter of thanks to President & CEO Joan Cusack-McGuirk.
“The entire experience at the hospital was wonderful,” Fred remembered.
The couple was introduced to the hospital’s commitment to its patients the first time they walked through the doors. Their initial interaction with Singwala Ireifej, a guest services associate, left a lasting impression.
“We had a good feeling about the hospital from the time we walked in the door,” Barbara recounted. “The very first time we went to St. Luke’s to do the check-in procedure, we parked the car and went to the front desk. When we explained what we were there for, she said, ‘Wait a minute. Follow me.’ She took us where we needed to go and made sure we made it there. Each time I came through from then on, she asked how he was doing.”
After his surgery, Fred underwent four rounds of chemotherapy to further combat his cancer. His otherwise excellent health allowed for the additional treatment despite concerns over his age.
Fred passed away in December 2018. Montefiore St. Luke's Cornwall would like to thank his family for their generosity in allowing us to tell his story with the hopes of inspiring others to seek the help they need.