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Conjoined Twins Separated By A Team Of 78 Doctors In Nigeria

Mercy and Goodness Ede are two twin baby girls who are making headlines before they can even utter the words “mom.” The two twins were born conjoined at the chest in August 2018, but they would only remain that way for a few months, as a massive team of doctors were ready to step in to separate the two girls and give them a shot at living their own individual lives. 

The birth and surgeries took place in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, at the country’s National Hospital. It was the first time a conjoined twin separation has ever been performed at the hospital. As stated, the twins were born in August of 2018 and underwent separation surgery in November of the same year. The hospital only just made the surgery’s success public this week, as they have been closely monitoring the now-separated twins for the past year to ensure that no complications occurred.

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“We are just happy and proud that the team that worked on this surgery were all Nigerians. It was done in Nigeria and the parents didn’t have to go outside the country. The surgery, which typically runs into thousands of dollars, was done free of charge to the parents, who work in menial jobs and would not have been able to afford the surgery otherwise,” National Hospital spokesman Dr. Tayo Haastrup told CNN.

The surgery itself took 13 hours, and involved a team of 78 doctors working from two operating room theaters at the National Hospital. Initially, the surgery was meant to occur within weeks of the girls being born, however, medical complications in the girls along with the complexity of their conjoined state caused delays. 

In general, separating conjoined twins can be extremely complex and dangerous depending on what organs and body parts are being shared amongst both twins. Many times the surgery will be deemed as too dangerous or even impossible to perform depending on the severity of the conjoined bodies. 

Keeping that in mind, the Ede twins were born conjoined at the chest, down to the belly. As if the chest connection wasn’t complex enough to work around, the girls also were born with a condition known as omphalocele. Omphalocele is a birth defect that leaves a small portion of the twins’ intestines sticking out from their naval, according to pediatric surgeon Emmanuel Ameh, who led the team that performed the operation.

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The first step in this long surgical process was to fix the omphalocele. If the doctors wanted to separate the two girls, they needed all of their individual organs to be where they were supposed to be in both of their bodies. So they initially went into surgery to repair the naval area and return the intestines to their rightful places. After this, the twins had to recover for many weeks in order to have enough strength for the big separation surgery. 

Different groups within the 78 doctors that were involved in the separation held different roles and responsibilities, depending on the stage of the surgery they were in during the 13 hour operation. Ameh said the biggest concern came from the group of plastic surgeons, who shared a mutual fear that where the main separation incision in the chest was made would grow to be infected and they would need constant skin graft therapy. 

“We needed to determine if they could live independently when they are separated. We found out that they were sharing a diaphragm and one liver was serving both of them, but all other organs were separate. We also had to get some medical equipment that was not available,” said Ameh.

Now, we’re over a year post-operation, and the two girls couldn’t be healthier thanks to the amazing work of the 78 Nigerian doctors at the National Hospital.