Darlington mother's 'Da Vinci robot' surgery is UK first

Gemma with baby Finlay

Gemma Walker, from Darlington, is the first person in the UK to have a tumour removed from the main airway of a lung with the use of the 'Da Vinci robot'.

Gemma was pregnant with her second child when she was told she had a tumour on her lung. Because of the delicate nature of the proposed operation, and the usual methods of tumour removal, she was told that her surgery would have to wait until the baby had been born.

The left lung had to be disconnected from the rest of the airways and then stitched back together after the tumour had been removed. Surgeons say this is impossible with the usual method of 'minimally invasive lung surgery' and so it was decided to use the 'Da Vinci robot' which can delicately stitch, something that was needed for Gemma's case.

“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.”

Cardiothoracic Consultant Joel Dunning

The 27 year-old was put under the care of cardiothoracic consultant Joel Dunning who wanted to treat Gemma with the Da Vinci robot at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Baby Finlay was born six weeks early and was home four weeks later – five days before his mother went into hospital for an innovative operation to remove a carcinoid tumour from her lung.

“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.”

Gemma Walker

“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.”

Gemma Walker

Gemma is recovering well.