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July 29, 2023 by The Simpsonville Sentinel - Views: 63

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Sentinel Veteran of the Month

Sarasota Survivor: One Father’s Journey from Cold War Missions to Fighting Prostate Cancer

SARASOTA, FL (June 16, 2023) – Longtime Sarasotan William “Bill” Kimbrell, 76, is no stranger to challenges. From serving as a former U.S. Air Force pilot with the 774th Tactical Airlift Squadron and navigating the way through the tensions and uncertainties of the Cold War, Kimbrell also is a survivor of advanced-stage prostate cancer. This Father’s Day, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (SMH) is marking the occasion by sharing Kimbrell’s story to spur conversation about men’s health and encourage sons, dads and granddads across the Suncoast to schedule routine exams to protect their health.

Kimbrell’s personal battle began in 2010 when he was diagnosed with advanced stage, aggressive, prostate cancer following a routine check-up with his primary care doctor. At the recommendation of his doctor, Kimbrell scheduled a follow up visit with Robert I. Carey, MD, SMH’s head of urology. This marked the beginning of a special connection and patient-doctor relationship. Kimbrell and Dr. Carey instantly bonded over the fact that Kimbrell’s military assignments laid the groundwork for the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Capt. William Kimbrell,
center and fellow members of the 
774th Tactical Airlift Squadron
in the mid-1970s

“Bill flew in NATO supply missions to West Berlin in the mid-1970s, experiencing life on both sides of the Berlin Wall, and 15 years later I was a young academic post-doctoral DAAD fellow in West Berlin designing and synthesizing new drugs for prostate cancer,” said Dr Carey. “Thanks to his vigilance and dedicated military service, I became a much better trained scientist and physician through my European experience, and I witnessed one of the most memorable events of the 20th century, the fall of the Berlin wall on Nov. 9, 1989.”

That’s not all he and Kimbrell had in common. During their conversations, Kimbrell learned Dr. Carey and he lived in neighboring towns in rural South Carolina. Kimbrell recalls visiting friends who lived across the street from Dr. Carey’s family and seeing a young tousled hair boy playing in the front yard.

When he learned that boy grew up to become an internationally recognized robotic surgeon, one that Sarasota Memorial recruited to the area for his expertise, Kimbrell could not have been more happy and confident in his care provider.

“The real story is Dr. Carey,” Kimbrell said. “From day one, I had complete trust in him. He was the expert, and I am here because of him,” Kimbrell said. “With the success I had at SMH, I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

As was the case through multiple Air Force missions, Kimbrell never gave up hope in the face of an unfavorable prognosis and was supported by a dedicated team of SMH physicians. As an expert urologist and one of dozens of DaVinci-trained robotic surgeons at SMH, Dr. Carey performed a groundbreaking and successful robotic prostatectomy on Kimbrell, which helped to save his life. Over the last 12 years, Dr. Carey has kept a close watch on Kimbrell, with the pair continuing to meet regularly for routine tests and treatment.

Following his recovery, Kimbrell has marked many milestones with his family of four children and nine grandchildren – including his 50th anniversary with his wife Cindy.

Bill with his wife, children
and grandchildren

“We are all so grateful to Dr. Carey for saving our ‘Obie’ for us,” said Mrs. Kimbrell, referring to the nickname their grandchildren gave to William.

“More than a decade after his robotic prostatectomy, I am so pleased that Bill is thriving and enjoying a high quality of life as a father and grandfather,” said Dr. Carey. “Open discussion is often the first step in the early detection and prevention of medical conditions, but all too often men just don’t want to talk about their health. Bill’s case demonstrates that communicating with your physician and undergoing regular screenings and check-ups can save lives.”

An estimated 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in men; however, early detection, which can be done during a routine check-up, can have a powerful impact on the prognosis. SMH stands ready to support men across the Suncoast in the proactive management of their health. The health system provides nationally recognized men’s health services, with U.S. News naming SMH among the top 50 best hospitals in the country for urology care in 2023. The hospital also has received top honors for prostate cancer surgery and multiple other conditions and procedures.■

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