Little Girls From Charsadda: Sisters Conjoined At Head Are Now living Independent Life After Complex Surgery In London
The Pakistani conjoined twins from Charsadda are finally living independent lives after a 100-strong team of British medical experts spent 50 hours performing complex surgery to separate them, CNN reported, as the doctors are optimistic two girls would be walking by their third birthday.
Safa and Marwa came as a bit of a surprise when they were born on January 7, 2017 at as their mother had not known she was expecting twins – let alone craniopagus twins, who are joined at the head.
The twins were delivered by Caesarean section at Hayatabad hospital in Peshawar.
Around two in five sets of such twins are stillborn or die during labour, while a third more do not survive the first 24 hours. But fortunately, former prime minister Nawaz came to their rescue as stated by PML-N Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president Amir Muqam in a tweet with their latest photo.
چارسدہ سے تعلق رکھنے والی صفامروہ سر جڑی بہنیں لندن میں کامیاب سرجری کے بعد سر الگ کئے جانے کے بعد اپنے والدین کے ہمراہ ـ
صفا مروہ کے سرکاری علاج کا حکم 2017 میں سابق وزیر اعظم نواز شریف صاحب نے دیاتھا ـ pic.twitter.com/Hsa8yCNCdI
— Engr Amir Muqam (@AmirMuqamPK) July 16, 2019
The girls had born with their skulls and blood vessels fused together. Since arriving in Britain, they have undergone three operations between October last year and when they were finally separated on February 11.
After consultation with their doctors in Pakistan, the London hospital welcomed them to the Bumblebee Ward where various experts – from craniofacial, neurology and psychology specialists, to nurses, radiologists and physiotherapists – spent four months treating them.
Consultant neurosurgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani and craniofacial surgeon Professor David Dunaway led a team of 100 staff members.
Now, five months after the last operation, the hospital has told the twins’ tale. A short animation video released by GOSH explains the procedure, while separate footage sees the medical team recount their efforts.
Jeelani explained that conjoined twins are “very, very unusual,” but even more so those joined at the head.
The secret of the “very complex procedures,” according to Jeelani, was breaking it down to smaller and “much more manageable steps.”
The experts used virtual reality to create an exact replica of the girls’ anatomy in order to visualize their skulls and the positioning of their brains and blood vessels.
“For the first two to three procedures we focused on separating out the brains and blood vessels,” Jeelani said in the GOSH video.
Once this was completed, a piece of plastic was used to keep the two structures apart. “Internally we had two separate kids,” the neurosurgeon added.
The focus was then external, as the team used the girls’ own bone at the top of their skulls and “tissue expanders” to stretch their skin over their heads.
Though the girls are said to be doing well, the surgery was not plain sailing. During one of the operations they started to bleed after clots formed in Safa’s neck and she began to transfer blood to Marwa, reported the UK’s Press Association (PA).
When Marwa’s heart rate fell, doctors feared they would lose her — so they decided to give her a key vein she shared with her sister. This resulted in Safa suffering a stroke less than 12 hours later.
As a staff nurse on Bumblebee ward, Lydia Lowe got to know the children well. “Safa has always been a bit boisterous; she’s always been the first to count or speak,” she recounted in the GOSH video.
Lowe described Marwa as “more cheeky”, adding: “As soon as Safa goes to sleep Marwa comes out to shine.”
Having been discharged on July 1, the girls are said to be doing “well” despite the many challenges ahead. Their mother Zainab Bibi, 34, is currently residing with them in London where they are undergoing daily physiotherapy. Their father died of a heart attack before they were born, but their uncle and grandfather are on hand to help.
Bibi, who had seven children prior to the twins, said in a statement: “We are indebted to the hospital and to the staff and we would like to thank them for everything they have done. We are extremely excited about the future.”
Jeelani said he was optimistic that the twins would be walking by their third birthday. “From our personal point of view, it has been great to get to know the girls and their family. Their faith and determination have been so important in getting them through the challenges they have faced. We are incredibly proud of them,” Jeelani and Dunaway added in a statement.