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December 12, 2023

Chance Encounter Leads to Life-Saving Surgery for Green Lake Man

ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin Now Providing Additional Surgery Options

When Gary Scholtens’ prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level began to increase, he wasn’t especially concerned. His level of 5.1 ng/mL was higher than the borderline level of 4 ng/mL, but he had no prostate symptoms.

Lucky for Gary, a chance encounter led to a diagnosis that proved lifesaving.

Fate Intervenes

Several months ago, Gary and his family held an 80th birthday party for Gary’s mother-in-law. Gary’s wife, Dawn, invited several guests and rented three homes in Green Lake for the occasion.

As Dawn and her sister-in-law were preparing for the party, a person in a truck drove up. It turned out that it was the owner of the property dropping off some firewood, and he introduced himself as Dr. Andrew Maes.

“We asked Dr. Maes what kind of doctor he was, and he said he was a urologist,” Dawn explained. “I said immediately, ‘Oh, my husband needs a urologist!’”

Gary, who had relocated to Green Lake with Dawn after retiring as an educator in Iowa, had developed bladder stones before the move and needed a follow-up.

Gary made an appointment with Dr. Maes, who practices at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin and ThedaCare Physicians-Ripon, and had the bladder stones removed.

“We continued to meet for routine care,” explained Gary. “And about a year and a half ago, my PSA numbers began to creep up just a little bit.”

Dr. Maes ordered an MRI, which showed normal results. From there, he recommended continued monitoring.

In the months that followed, Gary’s PSA level continued to inch up.

“When that happens, it can indicate an abnormality,” Dr. Maes explained. “Eventually, we recommended a biopsy. Unfortunately, Gary did have prostate cancer on the biopsy. This particular form could threaten his life over time.”  

Additional Surgery Options, Close to Home

For Gary, the news was frightening at first. In addition to what he was going through, Dawn had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer a year before. She underwent chemotherapy and other treatments and was doing well. However, a new diagnosis was a lot for the couple to absorb.]

“We’re of the generation where cancer was big and scary,” said Gary. “When you’re relatively healthy and you hear that word, it’s a shock.”

Through his and Dawn’s journey, Gary said he’s realized that medicine has come a long way throughout the years. Robotic surgery has been one of those areas of advancement.

Since 2021, ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin has offered robotic surgery. This type of procedure can offer many benefits to patients, including shorter hospital stays, fewer complications, and faster recovery times.

“This type of surgery can offer a quicker path to returning to what matters most,” said Dr. Maes. “Robotic surgery, including the da Vinci system, allows for minimally invasive surgery. It helps us do complex work in hard-to-reach places.”

Given Gary’s age and overall health status, Dr. Maes recommended a robotic prostatectomy. Gary underwent the surgery at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin in June 2023.

Access to that level of technology in a community the size of Berlin was a great surprise to Gary and his family.

“We’ve been impressed with what ThedaCare can do in the Berlin community,” Gary said. “I feel that recovery was much quicker and easier with the robotic surgery.”

Bright Outlook

Gary didn’t need any treatments beyond the surgery, and today he’s healthy and doing well.

“His PSA test shows an undetectable reading,” said Dr. Maes. “And the goal after the surgery is to see that PSA become undetectable. When we have a lab that comes back with that result, we all get so excited.”

Gary praised Dr. Maes for his expertise and the compassionate care he provides.

“I’m very grateful for Dr. Maes and his willingness to listen and his persistence,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that probably saved my life.”

Dr. Maes urges men to stay watchful of their prostate health.

“The problem with prostate cancer is it’s often a silent thing,” he said. “So, it’s something that you should talk to your doctor about getting routine examinations, which include the blood testing and palpation of the prostate.”

As for Gary, he and Dawn are looking forward to spending more time with their children and grandchildren. While Gary admits that the past couple of years have brought hardship — both the with the pandemic and two difficult diagnoses — he’s ready for what lies ahead.

“We’ve had a year and a half of dealing with cancer,” he said. “Now we’re ready for life to just get back to normal, whatever that is anymore. With Dr. Maes’ help and insistence, we feel like that’s going to be possible.”

Expanded Care Options

ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin is now offering expanded surgery care to communities. The new surgery clinic at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin can help reduce the need to travel long distances to receive pre- and post-operative care.

Specialty care offerings in Berlin include general surgery, podiatry, OB-GYN, neuro-spine procedures through Neuroscience Group, urology, dermatology, oncology, neurology, orthopedic care, sports medicine, cardiology, nephrology, sleep medicine, pain management, and ear, nose, and throat care.

The surgery clinic is the latest offering at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin. In 2021, an expanded emergency department opened at the hospital. The larger space allows the hospital to serve more people. The facility also includes features designed to meet the needs of the communities served. To learn more about surgery options in Berlin, please talk with your primary care provider and care team.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.