CHENNAI: Jimmy Mtemi and Carolina Zakaria, each carrying a baby and wearing matching T-shirts, looked thrilled as they stood with doctors at Apollo Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.
The couple from Tanzania has had a stressful few months. Their daughters, now about nine months old, were born conjoined, with their chests and abdomens fused, a condition known as thoraco-omphalopagus. It took a team of 25 doctors a total of 11 hours, in two complex procedures, to separate Adriana and Abriana.
“At first, we were worried the babies’ hearts would be fused. But luckily, we found they had two hearts with a common pericardium (heart wall). Adriana’s heart had to be covered with bovine pericardium and then covered with skin and soft tissue,” said Neville Solomon, one of the doctors who operated on the twins.
The liver too, presented complications, as doctors had to find out which half belonged to which child and then separate the organs without losing too much blood. Fortunately, the intestines were separate. After this came the difficult task of covering all the exposed organs.
“We used tissue expanders — which are silicon balloons inserted under the skin and injected with saline — in order to stretch the skin. The skin was then raised to cover the heart, liver and intestines,” said K.S. Sivakumar, plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
All went well for a few days, until Adriana became critically ill — first, with a heart ailment, and then her intestines sliding into her chest. After yet another procedure, she has now recovered, doctors said.
The happy parents are now hoping to take their twins back home soon.
Managing director of Apollo Hospitals, Preetha Reddy, thanked the medical team for performing the most challenging of life-saving surgeries, while chairman Prathap C. Reddy said the hospital would continue to strive for excellence in medical care.