KARACHI: Two conjoined twins have been successfully separated after a surgery at the Aga Khan University Hospital, the first of its kind at the hospital and in Karachi.
Their parents I*, a police official, and U*, residents of Pano Akil, expressed their delight after the successful surgery as they had lost all hope of having the procedure done.
Conjoined twins are rare, their estimated incidence is one in 250,000 of live births. In this particular case, S* and M*, were joined from the lower breastbone to the upper abdomen, and shared a liver.
For the first two weeks of the girls' lives, I* went from doctor to doctor looking for help. He even travelled to Karachi, where doctors at a hospital told him that nothing could be done at the time and to return when the girls were older. Distressed but not defeated, I* returned home with his daughters.
When the girls were around three and half months old, I* and U* once again found themselves in Karachi where a doctor referred them to the Aga Khan University Hospital.
"When we received the two girls, we were happy to see that at least one of them had been progressing at par with other children in the same age group," said Dr Zafar Nazir, the paediatric surgeon who treated the twins.
The girls were admitted and a multidisciplinary team of paediatric surgeons, radiologists, cardiologists, anaesthesiologists, paediatricians, nurses and operating room technicians was drawn together to discuss possible surgical scenarios and equipment. The team comprised around 45. The planning phase of the surgery took about a month and a half in which the group broke up into smaller specialised teams, each with a particular role in the surgery. A day before the actual surgery, the teams did a full 'dress rehearsal' to check if all aspects of the procedure had been addressed.
On December 1, a 20-member surgical team headed by Dr Nazir, and assisted by Dr Arif Mateen Khan, Dr Saqib Qazi and Dr Ahmed Vaqas (paediatric surgery), Dr Fauzia Khan, Dr Faisal Shamim and Dr Hamid (paediatric anaesthesia) performed the seven-hour procedure. Five days later, the girls were shifted to the special care unit of the paediatric ward.
Dr Nazir is optimistic about their future though one of the twins, with a congenital heart defect, will have to return for further surgery.
For U* and I* there is a reason to hope once again that their daughters will grow up to live normal and happy lives. "We were told that this was not possible in Pakistan," recollects U*. "But my husband and I clung to the hope that somehow, somewhere we would find a cure, and we did when we came to this hospital."
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the family
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2014.