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Pregnant and diagnosed with cancer: Two lives saved by robotic surgery

After waking up one morning to stomach pain like she’d never felt —and a lot of blood — Gina Neri rushed to the doctor.

“What he said floored me,” Gina says. “That week, I learned not only was I pregnant with my third child, but I also had colon cancer.”

Saving a baby against all odds

Most doctors told Gina she would have to give up her baby to save herself. “I didn’t know if I was going to live or die, but all I could think about was my unborn baby,” Gina says. “Every surgeon I consulted with told me that I had to terminate the pregnancy, but I wanted my baby more than anything.”

Gina Neri and baby Gianna with Dr. Wishner.

One team had a revolutionary plan to save them both. Jerald Wishner, MD, codirector of the Institute for Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery and director of the Minimally Invasive and Colorectal Surgery Program at Northwell’s Northern Westchester Hospital, suggested an option Gina didn’t know existed: robotic surgery. Since the robot’s accuracy and precision was unmatched — particularly in very small, hard-to-access spaces — it was a viable option to save both Gina’s life and that of her unborn baby.

“I remember Dr. Wishner telling me, ‘I do believe there still is a huge risk. I don’t know for a fact that the baby is going to survive the surgery. But let’s try it.’”

Celebrating the best outcome

Gina moved ahead with the surgery – two days before her 40th birthday. It was a success.

“Two days later, I woke to nurses saying, ‘We want to get you a cake. We want to do something for your 40th!’” Gina says. “So I said, ‘If you really want to get me something, I want to have an ultrasound.’”

There on the monitor, Gina saw her tough little baby thriving — after all she’d endured.

quotation mark Gianna wouldn’t be here today — and wouldn’t have her whole life ahead of her — if it wasn’t for Dr. Wishner’s belief that he had a better way.
Gina Neri

The following November, Gianna Hope was born. And she was perfect.

“Gianna wouldn’t be here today — and wouldn’t have her whole life ahead of her — if it wasn’t for Dr. Wishner’s belief that he had a better way,” Gina says.

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