A DARLINGTON mum has become the first person in the UK to undergo pioneering robotic lung surgery.

Gemma Walker was pregnant with her second child when she was told she had a tumour on her lung.

The Northern Echo: SUCCESS: Gemma Walker with baby Finlay

But because of the delicate nature of the proposed operation to remove the tumour, her surgery would have to wait until after her baby was born.

The 27 year-old was put under the care of cardiothoracic consultant Joel Dunning who wanted to treat her as quickly and as least invasively as possible with the use of the cutting-edge Da Vinci robot at The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.

Baby Finlay was born six weeks early and was allowed home five days before Ms Walker went into hospital for the innovative operation to remove the carcinoid tumour from her lung.

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.”

Mr Dunning said the only alternative would have been to create a 25cm chest wound to do the operation the conventional way but then Ms Walker would not have been able to lift or carry her baby for six weeks.

Ms Walker is recovering well and was home in four days due to the minimally invasive procedure.

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.

Ms Walker said it was “great” to be reunited with Finlay, his two-year-old brother Henry and her partner Daniel so soon after the operation.

Mr Dunning added: “The benefits of robotic lung surgery have been immense in the short time that we have been performing this surgery and together with Newcastle we are the first unit to offer this kind of surgery in the UK.”