Conjoined twin sisters from Pakistan have a new lease on life after surviving a 55-hour surgery to separate their heads — and the procedure was part of a months-long effort.
Safa and Marwa Ullah, now 2, were born craniopagus twins, a rare condition in which the babies’ skulls fuse. Since October, the sisters have undergone more than 50 hours of surgery, with the final operation completed in February at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, the hospital announced last week.
“I am very happy. With God’s grace I am able to hold one for an hour and then the other one,” the girls’ mother, Zainab Bibi, told the BBC. She added in the hospital’s statement: “We are extremely excited about the future.”
The twins were finally well enough to leave the hospital on July 1, the announcement states. The family is staying in London as the girls receive daily physiotherapy treatment. One video of the treatment showed the sisters looking at each other as staff sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
“The future looks bright for both Safa and Marwa,” hospital officials wrote alongside the Facebook video on Wednesday.
They added in a follow-up post hours later: “Safa and Marwa have a long road ahead, with many challenges – but we are hopeful they will be able to live active, happy lives!”
It all began in January 2017, when Safa and Marwa were born via c-section and quickly whisked away from Bibi. She was finally introduced to the girls five days later.
Bibi said she had no negative feelings about her daughters’ condition.
“They were very beautiful and they had nice hair with white skin,” she told the BBC. “I didn’t even think about the fact they were joined. They are God-given.”
Conjoined twins are very rare, occurring in only one in 2.5 million births, according to the hospital. Less than half of those die within 24 hours after birth.
After the birth, the family spent several months securing British visas and funding for the surgeries, according to the BBC. They underwent their first surgery as part of the separation in October 2018, to separate the twins’ joined arteries. The second operation separated their blood vessels.
They underwent the separation surgery on Feb. 11.
“It was a very emotional moment,” craniofacial surgeon Professor David Dunaway told the BBC. “We’ve been working a long time to get them here. They’ve been through so many operations and now it’s worked.”
Head of neurosurgery Owase Jeelani added: “We have taken the twins apart, but now we have to reconstruct their heads, and put each of them back together.”
The girls are steadily improving, and video footage of the twins showed them laughing and interacting with each other like any other pair of toddler sisters.
“After several operations, they’re finally separated,” Dunaway said in a video. “I would be optimistic that by their third birthday they should be walking.”
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