The daring robot surgery that saved a man’s life

May 2023

Two doctors, separated by thousands of miles, carried out a lifesaving operation using a robot. It’s the start of a major change in how surgery is performed.

In early April 2020, shortly after the British prime minister Boris Johnson had announced the first pandemic lockdown in the United Kingdom, a urologist named Archie Fernando reached out to one of her colleagues, Nadine Hachach-Haram.

The two doctors worked at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, one of the busiest in the country, at a time when nearly a thousand people were dying of Covid-19 every week. Most surgeries were being deferred, except for life-or-limb cases and urgent cancer surgeries, and Hachach-Haram, who is a reconstructive plastic surgeon, recalls how useless she felt. “I would just walk into the wards and ask the nurses what I could do to help,” she says. “I started doing everything, like portering and proning, turning patients over to make their breathing slightly better.”