THIMPU (BHUTAN): Bhutanese conjoined twins Nima and Dawa Pelden made a triumphant return to their home country on Thursday, able for the first time in their lives to move around without falling over each other.
Relatives, well-wishers, doctors and a media pack thronged the country's sole international airport to welcome back the 19-month-old girls, who until their surgery in Australia had been joined at the stomach and shared a liver.
The girls were born facing each other and when one walked, the other had to move backwards.
A team of 25 surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne separated the sisters in November. They have made a dramatic recovery since.
"My emotions are indescribable," said their mother Bhumchu Zangmo, as she watched the two independent girls whose story had captivated the whole Himalayan kingdom.
Zangmo spent six months away with the children, communicating with family back home by mobile phone.
Previously conjoined twin girls long for each other post surgery
Father Sonam Tshering wept as he saw his daughters for the first time since they left for Australia in October.
"I couldn't sleep last night," he said. Six months earlier, he added, he didn't know "if surgery would be possible and if it was, what would be the outcome".
At a guesthouse in the capital Thimpu, Nima and Dawa played with their toys and practiced some of the English words they learned in Australia.
Nima walked around nibbling on a bar of chocolate. Dawa can only crawl and will require more physiotherapy.
They will return to their home town of Phuentsholing on the Indian border next week.