Minimally invasive surgery helps Rhode Island boy get back to being a kid

jonathan_beforeandafterFor Jonathan Reed, summer fun goes way beyond wave riding along New England beaches. During a recent weeklong family vacation to Universal Studios in Florida, the Rhode Island fourth-grader visited wave pools at a water park, rode gravity-defying roller coasters and sprinted from one fun-filled attraction to the next.

This dream vacation may not have been as magical if Jonathan had to continually battle ongoing stomach pain.

For nearly a year and a half, the young lacrosse goalie and avid soccer player battled sporadic and excruciating abdominal pain. These attacks were sharp, swift and appeared to be sparked when on vacation or after playing sports.

“The pain was in his lower left side, and it would come out of the blue,” recalls Jonathan’s mom Karen. “It was pretty severe and would knock him down.”jonathan beach 2014[1]

Being an active nine-year-old, the last thing Jonathan wanted to do was take a break from the things he enjoyed most.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, the pain was sometimes a 9,” Jonathan recalls. “I would have to sit out from soccer or hold back when hanging with friends.”

Difficult diagnosis

Jonathan’s pediatrician initially believed the pain was caused by a gastrointestinal issue. “It was hard for the doctor to diagnose Jonathan because we were never actually with the doctor when the pain happened,” adds Karen.

As the months passed, Jonathan’s attacks intensified in frequency and severity. By winter 2015, he was experiencing weekly attacks.

“The pain was coming frequently enough that it was really disrupting his life,” says Karen.

During a painful February abdominal attack, the Reeds whisked their son off to see his pediatrician. The doctor examined Jonathan and it was quickly evident—the pain wasn’t caused by a GI condition. It was centered on his kidney.

Coordinating care

Jonathan was referred to a Providence-based urologist who used ultrasound testing to diagnose the young athlete with ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) obstruction. This condition, which occurs in approximately 1 out of every 1,500 children, is a blockage between the kidney and ureter. The blockage impedes the flow of urine and if unresolved, can lead to permanent kidney damage.

“It all made sense. Anytime Jonathan was hydrating more than usual, like at a game or on vacation, he would get the pain,” Karen says. “It turns out his kidneys were overtaxed and flooded, which was causing the pain.”

By the time he was diagnosed, Jonathan was suffering from kidney blockage symptoms every day. The next step was clear: the blockage needed to be surgically removed to relieve the obstruction and prevent kidney damage and loss of function.

“Jonathan’s urologist was really good about discussing our options regarding surgery,” Karen says. “He discussed the pros and cons of open versus minimally invasive robotic surgery (MIS) and due to the faster recovery time, we decided to go to Boston Children’s Hospital for robotic surgery.”

Minimally invasive robotic surgery is done through small incisions using miniaturized surgical tools and cameras or telescopes. It results in less scarring and a quicker recovery time compared to open procedures.

Jonathan’s urologist referred the family to Dr. Richard Yu, director of Boston Children’s Robotic Surgery Program.

Jonathan and Yu hit it off, and surgery was scheduled quickly.

Successful outcome

After months of pain, Jonathan’s surgery brought the relief he needed. He went home the next day and returned to normal physical activity one week later.


“Jonathan was a star patient. He bounced back quickly and was a pleasure to work with,” Yu says. “I love doing what I do when I see patients like Jonathan who bounce right back after major surgery and move forward with living their lives symptom-free.”

The spunky, nine-year-old is back to being an active kid again. He returned to the lacrosse field, traveled with his family on his dream vacation and is gearing up for fall soccer.

“Jonathan is better than ever,” mom says.



Watch the video below about minimally invasive surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.