Medical miracle for conjoined DRC twins
They were born with no medical assistance in a remote Congo village – then their parents rode 1 400 km on a motorbike to get their conjoined twins to a hospital
THE tiny twins snuggle up together in their nest of fluffy blankets, blissfully unaware of the life- ordeath ordeal that followed their birth. And the story of their survival is a powerful testament to their parents’ love.
Claudine Mukhena and Zaiko Munzadi, who live in the remote village of Muzombo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), had no idea of the complications that awaited them when they found out they were to be parents.
Their twins were conjoined, attached at the navel and sharing some organs.
Remarkably, Claudine was 37 weeks pregnant when she went into labour – far longer than many moms manage to carry multiple babies, especially when there are complications.
Even more remarkably, she had a natural delivery. And when she and Zaiko saw their daughters were conjoined they knew they needed to find help fast.
So they wrapped them in pink blankets and climbed onto Zaiko’s motorbike, setting off on a 15-hour, 1 400-km trip through the jungle until they reached the nearest hospital in Vanga.
However, the hospital didn’t have the facilities needed to perform the intricate surgery, so the parents appealed to the Christian organisation Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) for help.
The organisation flew the babies to Kinshasa almost 500km away where they were successfully separated by a team of volunteer surgeons.
The operation was the first of its kind in the DRC, local doctor Junior Mudji believes. He’s now caring for the twins back at Vanga Evangelical Hospital and “they are fine”, he says.
Wonder and awe still surround the mother and her babies, who’ve been named Anick and Destin.
“At 37 weeks, conjoined twins born naturally – it’s unheard of,” Mudji says.
“They are doing fine, they sleep well and eat well. We’ll keep them here for a few more weeks to be sure everything is normal.”
The twins are likely to return home later this month.
CONJOINED twins occur once in every 200 000 live births and their survival is anything but assured.
Approximately 40-60% are stillborn and about 35% survive only one day.
percentage They separated ents to Anick Jaclyn hold were were their Reierson, and ecstatic in a of little week September Destin fighters girls when an old are MAF in when and they their and in missionary survivors. the they their were arms. small were par- able in were crowd. “Congo, There flown People was remembers to Kinshasa. a began big commotion the pressing day the in in twins and the surging tempting airplane. around Despite to lead his a a doctor woman best efforts who towards to was shield the ather, people, she was touching being her, swarmed taking by pictures, over 200 calling staring. Think out, shouting Hollywood questions paparazzi and but with no security,” she says in a blogpost on the MAF website.
A surgeon on board turned to her. “That bundle in her arms is conjoined twins. Attached at the navel. They were born in a remote village so far away no one around here even knows where it is. And they were born naturally!”
Fortunately the babies were conjoined in a way that made separation possible – they shared no vital organs so surgeons were able to prise them apart without complication.
MAF pilot Brett Reierson flew them back to Vanga when they were strong enough. “It was a privilege to be part of their story,” he says.
‘Conjoined twins born naturally at 37 weeks – it’s unheard of’
ABOVE and LEFT: Conjoined twins Anick and Destin were attached at the navel when they were born. ABOVE RIGHT: The girls and their parents, Claudine Mukhena and Zaiko Munzadi, on their way back home.