Wednesday 7 December 2016

Mum with tumour on her lung operated on by a robot

Tom Wilkinson

Published 08/03/2016 | 12:54

Gemma Walker, 27, from Darlington, with her newborn baby Finlay
Gemma Walker, 27, from Darlington, with her newborn baby Finlay

A mother who would not have been able to lift and carry her newborn baby for weeks if she received conventional surgery was home within days of an operation on her lung using a robot in a UK first.

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Gemma Walker, 27, from Darlington, was short of breath and was found to have a tumour on her lung while she was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child.

Doctors at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough delayed surgery until after she gave birth to Finlay, then used a sophisticated Da Vinci robot to carry out delicate stitching during the operation to remove a carcinoid tumour.

She was allowed home four days after the operation and was back to Finlay, two-year-old Henry and her partner Daniel.

When the tumour was revealed, she was put under the care of cardiothoracic consultant Joel Dunning and a plan was put into action.

Baby Finlay was born six weeks early and was home four weeks later - five days before his mother went into hospital for the innovative operation.

Ms Walker said: "I had got to the stage whenever I made physical effort like climbing the stairs I was seriously out of breath.

"I knew something had to be done.

"Mr Dunning explained that he was going to use the robot to help remove the tumour, which sounds quite scary, but the speed of my recovery has been fantastic, compared to what it would have been without it."

Mr Dunning added: "This is the first time in the UK that the Da Vinci robot has been used for the removal of a tumour from the main airway of a lung.

"The difficulty comes in the fact that the left lung had to be disconnected from the rest of the airways and then stitched back together after the tumour had been removed.

"This is impossible with our usual method of minimally invasive lung surgery as it is too difficult, but with the Da Vinci robot to help us with the delicate stitching, we managed this and also managed to preserve the whole of her left lung.

"The only alternative would have been to create a 25cm chest wound to do the operation the conventional way, but then Gemma would not have been able to lift or carry her baby for six weeks, so we wanted to go the extra mile to get her back home as quickly as possible to her two children."

The mother of two is recovering well and Mr Dunning is "delighted" with her quick recovery.

She said: "The short stay in hospital flew by and I can't thank the staff enough for what they, and the robot, have done for me.

"It was great to be back with Finlay, his two-year-old brother Henry and my partner Daniel so soon after the procedure.

"I feel a hundred times better than I did just a few weeks ago."

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