Destination Spotlight

Conjoined Nigerian Twins Can Get Along -- Apart

Destination Spotlight

A Nigerian set of twins had no problem getting along together, but they won’t mind living apart from each other for the rest of their lives, thanks to Indian doctors who successfully separated the conjoined girls following a “nerve-wracking” surgery in New Delhi.

The girls, who celebrated their first birthdays in August, were born with a condition called “pygopagus,” in which they shared lower spinal cords, lower gastrointestinal tract and genitor-urinary tracks, with a common anus and genitalia.

“Usually the twins are joined in the head or the upper body,” Dr. Prashant Jain, who supervised a team of 40 surgeons during the 14-hour operation, told AFP as the twins, Hussaina and Hassana, sat on their parents laps, sporting matching bright pink dresses. “It posed a huge challenge to our team of doctors.”

Little did the girls realize — clutching a mobile phone, grabbing at a rattle, and pulling at their mother’s earrings – that they represented only the fourth such successful separation in the world.

“It feels great to see them happy, health and independent,” said Jain.

Certainly, considering doctors at Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital in Kano, Nigeria, had told the parents that one of their girls would not survive a separation surgery. One doctor, held out hope, and referred the parents to BLK Super Specialty Hospital in Delhi. A philanthropist in Nigeria.

Little did the girls realize — clutching a mobile phone, grabbing at a rattle, and pulling at their mother’s earrings – that they represented only the fourth such successful separation in the world.


then stepped forward and agreed to pay for the procedures, estimated at $100,000.

The single surgery was performed in three stages: preparation, separation and then five hours of reconstruction of shared organs.


“We carried out rehearsals using dummies,” said Jain. “All tubes, wires, injections and drugs were color-coded in pink or blue (for each girl) to avoid any mistake.”

Cojoined births are rare. One out of every 2,000 live births is given any chance of survival. Jain said only 15 percent of all conjoined twins are born with pygopagus. If those numbers weren’t enough, Nigeria has one of the highest rates of newborn mortality in the world.

Toyin Saraki is well aware of what she calls a “national emergency.” The wife of a former governor in Nigeria, Saraki lost a newborn after giving birth to twins. Since then, she has established The Wellbeing Foundation Africa to make a difference by educating women about prenatal care.

Nigerians spend an estimated N250 billion on healthcare – or medical tourism – abroad. Dr. Kingsley Esegbue, a Nigerian physician, said medical procedures could be handled within the country if facilities were accessible.

“Sealing a hole in a child’s heart need not cripple the parents financially or take place in India; replacing a damaged kidney should and can be done within our borders,” he said.

“Every breast, cervical or prostate cancer patient should have access to quality care within Nigeria. Our neurosurgery units need to serve the Nigerian people. Nigeria is blessed with skilled healthcare professionals. What are required are the infrastructure-technology and, perhaps, the will.”

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Nigerian Gen. Ibrahim Babangida has said that unless the government provides adequate medical infrastructure, the nation’s elite will continue to be lured by medical tourism abroad at the expense on Nigeria’s economy.

The former military leader of the country who spoke before the Nigerian Medical Association said massive infrastructure development would prevent the drift of medical practitioners abroad and entice the estimated more than 30,000 Nigerian doctors who crossed the border to practice to return home.

Nigerians spend an estimated N250 billion on healthcare – or medical tourism – abroad.


“The only way is for the government to provide adequate medical infrastructure at our various levels of healthcare delivery,” said Babangida. “Our doctors are among the best brains in the world. They are patriots who are doing their best out of nothing. There is nothing they (doctors) can do without adequate facilities and it is not their responsibility, but that of government to provide the much needed facilities.


Sincerely, if we are to address all these lapses in the health sector, government should do more by providing infrastructure for the sector. This will surely help to drastically reduce exodus of doctors and discourage people from seeking medical attention outside the shores of the country.”

In the meantime, Nigeria and Singapore agreed to open up direct air links and leverage each nation’s trade and investment. The agreement covers medical tourism, capacity development, skills acquisition and enterprise development, among others

We carried out rehearsals using dummies. All tubes, wires, injections and drugs were color coded in pink or blue (for each girl) to avoid any mistake.


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