Robotics Patient Case Study | Freyja
The Royal Children’s Hospital didn’t have a robot to perform the surgery and we didn’t have a paediatric Intensive Care Unit, so we worked closely to plan her care after the life-saving surgery.
A girl who underwent lifesaving, history making robotic surgery to remove a tumour has been reunited with the surgeon who performed the operation.
In 2017, when Freyja Christansen was five, she was diagnosed with a rare cancer called a clear cell sarcoma.
Her mother Lizzie Christiansen Young began a desperate global search to find a hospital able to remove the tumour.
After receiving 21 knockbacks, Lizzie was told by the Boston Children’s Hospital that Head and Neck surgeon, Ben Dixon, might be able to perform the surgery at Epworth Richmond, using a surgical robot.
Sydney Children’s Hospital, Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Epworth Richmond collaborated to create a plan for surgery to remove the tumour, which was close to Freyja’s carotid nerve.
In 2018, the surgery was undertaken. It was the first operation of its type using a robot to remove a tumour on a paediatric patient.
The robot was funded by donors to the Epworth Medical Foundation.
Freyja has returned to Epworth Richmond for a routine check-up by Dr Dixon.
Freya visited the children’s ward at Epworth Richmond to reconnect with some of the nurses who looked after her in 2018.
Nurse Unit Manager Meredith Elliott recalled the significant effort required to care for Freyja after the surgery.
“Even before Freyja arrived at our hospital, we several meetings to discuss how we were going to manage her care because this type of surgery had never been done before in Australia,” Ms Elliott said.
“The Royal Children’s Hospital didn’t have a robot to perform the surgery and we didn’t have a paediatric Intensive Care Unit, so we worked closely to plan her care after the life-saving surgery.”
One of our doctors spent the first night after the surgery sleeping in the ward and there were detailed contingency plans in place should Freyja deteriorate.”
Ms Elliott said after the surgery, Freyja was soon on the road to recovery.
“She was enjoying the great hospital food here and racing around the ward, having a fun time. She was an active six-year-old. That’s why our team are dedicated to caring for kids, they are so resilient.”
“We gave Freya a chance and I can’t believe she is now 12 and about to enter high school. As a nurse, it’s great knowing the team was able to help her. This is what makes nursing rewarding.”