‘He gave me hope when I had none’

At the beginning of 2019, I was diagnosed with a “pilonidal cyst,” something I had never heard of before. My first surgery was March of 2019. It wasn’t with the surgeon I had been referred to since he no longer performs that type of surgery. Since it is supposedly such an easy procedure, I was given a newbie surgeon to perform this surgery. I had my doubts, but since I had never had surgery before, I thought I was just overthinking it.

Approximately two weeks after surgery, my incision opened up, possibly due to the surgeon using glue to close it, instead of stiches. The surgeon told me it would close over time. This did not happen. Several months passed with no healing. I then decided to seek another opinion, this time with a Colon and Rectal Surgeon in Houston. I was told by this surgeon that it would close. I just needed to make sure I did not have any hair around the wound. I started going to him on a weekly basis for months. He would shave the area around the wound and doctor it with silver nitrate. I was then told to use Nair around the wound at home in order to prevent the hair from growing back. Months passed and still there was no improvement. When I asked if I would need another surgery, the answer was always no. At no time was I tested for any kind of bacterial infection while being treated by both surgeons, nor was I treated with antibiotics. Keep in mind that I had an open wound that would not heal. The second surgeon stated that antibiotics were not necessary.

After months with the second surgeon and no improvement, I tried to figure out what my next steps would be. This time, I decided to try an infectious disease and wound doctor. He was the first doctor who tested me to see is I had an infection in the wound. Over the next few months, I was instructed to use medihoney and silver nitrate on the wound, and to take bleach baths. Of all the doctors I had sought help from, I was finally starting to see some positive results. My wound had healed, but eventually reopened again. I had been referred to by another doctor to see a general surgeon in Houston. My second surgery was with this surgeon in February of 2021. This surgeon scrapped and removed any dead tissue he found and then stitched the wound closed. However, again no antibiotics were prescribed, as he didn’t find it necessary.

About 11 weeks after the surgery, the wound opened up again. I went back to see him. He said he would try silver nitrate on the wound and he felt like it would close again. He said if it didn’t close, he would then send me to a plastic surgeon to do a special wound closure. As soon as he started to silver nitrate my wound again, I knew it wasn’t going to stay closed based on past experience. I was getting desperate.

I started googling pilonidal disease and came across Dr. Sternberg’s website. He specialized in the cleft lift procedure, a procedure which is highly successful when used to cure pilonidal disease. I looked in Texas and I found maybe three other doctors who could perform that procedure. However, I told my parents I did not want to use any of them if I could go to the best and have him do the surgery. They agreed. So I reached out Dr. Sternberg and his team and scheduled my surgery for the end of July 2021. I was in San Francisco for almost a week. I saw him the day before surgery and he looked at my open wound. This was the first time that I felt like I might have a chance at a normal recovery and my wound permanently repaired. He gave me hope when I had none after my previous failures.

Before the surgery, Dr. Sternberg did a culture from my wound area which determined that I indeed did have an infection. He needed to know what infection to treat after the operation. Dr. Sternberg said after surgery that when he went to tape my butt crack it split wide open revealing a huge fist sized cavity. My parents believe that if I had waited much longer to have the procedure done, it would have split while my parents were helping me treat it. This could have catastrophic since apparently no one in the Houston area had any idea how to treat it.

It is now 12 weeks and my wound is still closed. I am still being very cautious with what I am doing. I think it’s because I am so traumatized from past surgeries and experiences. I am not sure why some surgeons can’t tell you that they do not know how to treat this disease. I wish I would have known three years ago what I know now. Be very cautious first to have surgery in that area. Find the best surgeon that you know can help you and do your research. Not many surgeons are specialized in treating pilonidal disease even though they say they can. It is the worst area to have surgery you can’t see anything and have to rely on your family and friends to help you. If you have a failed surgery, you pretty much have to buy a ton of gauze and pack it well.

If you live with this disease long enough, it prevents you from living a normal life. All I wanted was my life back and I feel like currently I am almost there. If I wouldn’t have had two failed surgeries, I believe my recovery would have been a lot faster. I hope that you will come to the same conclusion I did and use Dr. Sternberg. He is a very personable and friendly doctor. I can contact him with questions and send him pictures and he will respond right away. Not many doctors care about their patients as he does. The only thing I wish Dr. Sternberg would do is open up an office in Texas.

Thank you Dr. Sternberg for helping me and continuing to help me as you do. I appreciate everything you have done for me and will continue to do! Save yourself the years of pain and headache that I went through and go see Dr. Sternberg. You will not regret it!

– Lauren A.

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