Surgeons get Swazi twins out of a bind

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Dressed prettily in pink, the twins slept peacefully in their parents’ arms yesterday as they were discharged from the hospital.

The twin girls, who are from Big Bend in Swaziland, were separated on January 21.

The pair, born on January 2 to Bongekile Simelane, 19, and husband Mbongeni Sihlongonyane, together weighed 4.21kg at birth and were joined at the abdomen.

The procedure was a first for the hospital but was the second set of twins separated by paediatric surgeons Mariza de Villiers and Paul Stevens.

This type of conjoining is known as omphalopagus: the twins were joined at the lower abdomen and did not share a heart.

The surgery took the team more than two hours.

The babies will be kept at the hospital for another two days while preparations are made for them to go back to Swaziland tomorrow, said Robert Jordaan, manager of Unitas Hospital.

“The procedure itself was simple but the finer details were a problem. There were 11 theatre sisters, four doctors and four anaesthetists,” said De Villiers.

“We were fortunate in this case because the twins did not share any significant organs.

“You always get surprised with every surgery but this time we were pleasantly surprised. It was just muscle, skin and bone that was shared by the twins.”

Said Marleen Engelbrecht, one of the doctors on the team: “We expect them to live a healthy life.

“We did have a problem with the hearts but there is a 75% to 80% chance that the holes in them will close up, but we will monitor that.”

Portia Mabuela, a nurse at Unitas who became a close friend of the parents, said: “Those twins are really close to my heart, and mummy, you are like my younger sister. I’m really happy.”

Soft-spoken Simelane said: “I was scared that I would lose one of them, but Portia was there and told me that they would both be fine.

“I’m happier than anyone here,” said Sihlongonyane with a smile.

“I didn’t believe it when they first told me that the twins were conjoined.

“The Swaziland government was very helpful in getting us here, and when we arrived they gave me hope that the twins would live.”

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