News People Six-year-old girl heading home after Australian-first surgery

Six-year-old girl heading home after Australian-first surgery

Freyja Christiansen
Freyja Christiansen is heading home after undergoing an Australian-first robotic surgery to remove tumours. Photo: AAP
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Six-year-old Freyja Christiansen is finally heading home after spending countless weeks in hospital battling a rare and aggressive cancer not usually seen in someone so young.

The Canberra youngster was diagnosed with clear-cell sarcoma in 2016 after specialists found two tumours positioned precariously close to a main artery at the base of her skull.

She is believed to be the youngest of 40 cases ever recorded worldwide, and was given a grim outlook of only 12 months to live.

Immunotherapy was used to reduce the size of the tumours, while Freyja’s sole hope was a complicated operation, using a robot called da Vinci to remove them.

Thirty-seven surgeons across the world refused to use the technology on Freyja.

“It was during a phone call to Boston Children’s Hospital that the name of Melbourne cancer surgeon Ben Dixon came up,” Freyja’s mum Liz Christiansen told AAP.

“It was a bit of a fluke really … we were willing to fly anywhere in the world but the fact that we had the skills and the technology in Melbourne was amazing.”

Freya Christiansen and her mum and doctor
Head and neck surgeon Ben Dixon, Freyja Christiansen, and her mother Liz Christiansen at the Epworth Hospital in Melbourne. Photo: AAP

Dr Dixon had only used the machine on adults but agreed to take on Freyja’s case.

“We knew that if Epworth (hospital) could not take the case, it would have been difficult for Freyja to have her condition managed surgically in Australia,” he said on Tuesday.

On February 28, Dr Dixon and fellow surgeon Matthew Magarey used the robot to successfully excise part of Freyja’s tumour. A subsequent surgery on Wednesday removed the rest of the tumours.

“To say this is a huge success is an understatement,” Ms Christiansen said.

“We’re not out of the woods just yet but everything that’s happened, every breakthrough and every surgery has just been miracle after miracle.”

Freyja will be discharged from hospital on Wednesday and is expected to continue immunotherapy in Melbourne or Sydney.