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Abdominal Wall Hernia Surgery: Kathleen Pritchard

Kathleen Pritchard, 34, is a stay-at-home mom who loves to keep active with her four beautiful children. But there was a time she could not engage in any physical activities because of a complex abdominal wall hernia.

In 2005, after the birth of her second child, Pritchard was medically advised not to get pregnant again due to thinning of her uterine lining and weakening of her abdominal muscles, but fate had other plans. She gave birth to her third child in 2008.

The Pritchard family in Orlando

A petite woman at 5 feet tall, Pritchard gave birth to large babies. Kaylen, now 10 years old, was 8.1 pounds at birth; Joshua, 8, was 7.9 pounds; and Andrew, 5, weighed 9 pounds. Pritchard adopted her youngest, Isaya, 2, from Africa after Andrew was born.

Pritchard’s third pregnancy further stretched her abdominal muscles and exacerbated a small hernia that was discovered after her second pregnancy.

“Being that petite, the amount of pressure on the abdominal wall created this problem,” said Ronald Hoxworth, M.D., Director of the Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “The repeated pregnancies caused stretching of the abdominal wall and resulted in a very large hernia.”

Her large protruding hernia made Pritchard look as if she was still 8 months pregnant, she said. And because she lacked a strong abdominal wall to protect her organs, she could not play with her kids or take part in any physical activities. 

“My older son, who was 4 at the time, just didn’t understand that it wasn’t because I didn’t want to play but that I just couldn’t,” Pritchard said. “It broke my heart.”

The Pritchard family in Washington, D.C.

To resolve the hernia, Pritchard met with four plastic surgeons across the Metroplex. When she met with Dr. Hoxworth, she immediately knew he was the one.

“He had the greatest bedside manner,” she said. “He was so knowledgeable. I was scared and unsure about what was going to happen to me or what was wrong with me, and he explained all of it. He even got down to my kids’ level to explain the surgery to them. He drew pictures for them to help them understand what was happening to mommy. That, for me, was huge.”

Dr. Hoxworth remembers their initial consultation well.

“Her little girl said to me, ‘Doctor, are you going to fix my mommy? She’s broken.’ It was so touching. Ms. Pritchard started to well up, and that gave me a sense of how dramatically this hernia had affected her life,” he said.

Dr. Hoxworth performed a complete abdominal reconstruction, realigned all of her abdominal muscles and also performed a tummy tuck. The procedures corrected the hernia and transformed Pritchard from a size 14 to a size 2.

“I’m back to my high-school size, which I never dreamed could happen!” she said. “At one of my post-op appointments, I gave Dr. Hoxworth a big hug and started crying. I told him he changed my life, and he teared up, too.”

Dr. Hoxworth loves helping his patients and, because of his vast experience, feels confident he can help a wide range of people with a variety of problems.

“By treating a large number of patients with complex problems, I have been able to develop and refine techniques that offer cutting-edge reconstructive options for my patients,” he said. “I can often reassure patients that their situation is not the worst I’ve seen – not even the worst I’ve seen this week – and that I’ve helped someone similar to them previously. Helping others is the best part of my job.”