15-month-old conjoined twins Nima and Dawa Peldon have been separated in an intense 6-hour operation at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. The team, led by lead Paediatric surgeon Dr Joe Crameri, consisted of up to twenty-five different medical professionals over the course of the operation including surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses.
According to the University of Maryland, the chances of giving birth to conjoined twins is about 1 in every 200,000 births and out of those, at least 70% are female and are always identical. Unfortunately, there are also high mortality rates at birth for conjoined twins and if they do survive, separation is always a risky process.
Nima and Dewa were connected at the torso which is common with conjoined twins and while doctors knew the girls shared a liver, they were unsure of what the status was with other organs such as the bowel. “We didn’t find any surprises” Dr Crameria said post-surgery. “We knew the liver would be connected, we divided that successfully – the main challenge was getting the abdomen reconstructed.”
While the surgery was being undertaken, the twin’s mother Bhumchu Zangmo visited the local Buddhist Temple to pray with members of the local Bhutanese community who came out to support her. After being advised the surgery was a success, Bhumchu went to see her babies but at the sight of them laying in separate beds, she had to ask nursing staff which twin was which as she was unable to tell them apart. The babies also didn’t like being separated and while they are recovering quickly, they prefer to be kept close together so they are able to intertwine their legs and comfort each other.
This miracle operation was made possible by Australian charity the Children First Foundation who became aware of the twin’s situation after their paediatrician in Bhutan, Dr Karma Sherub, asked for advice from Australian doctors. Until now, conjoined twins had never been seen in Bhutan before. Dr. Sherub was also able to accompany the family out to Australia, acting as translator, as well as being able to observe the operation and gain valuable experience with conjoined twins.
While the Children First Foundation’s generous supporters have covered the family’s airfares, accommodation and other expenses such as rehabilitation, the Australian Government has kindly announced that it will cover the AUD350,000 cost for the operation.
Eager to return home to Bhutan, Bhumchu has been overwhelmed by the support from the Australian public, especially from the school children who wrote letters of encouragement to the twins ahead of their surgery. “I am so happy that so many people have good feelings and prayers for my twin’s surgery”. Bhumchu said through a translator. “I will take all these letters to Bhutan and when the girls grow up and are able to read, I will ask them to read them all.”