Robotic Arms Mend Robelot's Heart

Jane Robelot co-anchored CBS This Morning, a predecessor of The Early Show, during the 1990s.

For family and health reasons, she left to start a new life in Atlanta.

Last year, Robelot received a frightening medical diagnosis. One of her heart valves was defective, a result of Graves' disease, and would likely kill her eventually if it wasn't repaired.

Three weeks ago, she invited The Early Show to watch a promising new type of robotic surgery that turned out to be the answer to her prayers, and CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann was in the operating room during Robelot's surgery.

Thursday, looking and feeling healthy and chipper, Robelot stopped by The Early Show to talk about it all.

She told Strassmann, "If I did nothing, my heart would have to work so hard, because this one valve is inefficient, that I would end up with congenital heart failure. I mean, it would eventually kill me."

Cameras captured the moment when Robelot, in her surgical gown, tightly hugged husband Mario de Carvalho prior to the surgery. "I love you, I love you so much," an emotional de Carvalho said during the long embrace, as Robelot sighed.

"There were times when Mario would wake me up at night, because he could feel my heart beating on the mattress," Robelot recalled for Strassmann.

Told she needed a heart operation at 44, Robelot started researching options and learned about cutting-edge surgery without a big cut, using tiny instruments guided by a robot.

Last year, Strassmann reports, the incidence of robotic surgery rose more than 50 percent, with most of the increase in prostate procedures. Advocates say it has great promise but, as in all operations, there's risk too.

The night before her operation, Robelot carried her son, George, down the hall, to put him in bed for nighttime prayers. She huddled closely with him.

"He's only seven" Robelot told Strassmann. "He needs his mom. I want to be there with him when he has his first girlfriend."

"Dear Jesus," George said, "please help Mommy get through her heart surgery tomorrow."