Sisters doing it for themselves
Conjoined Bhutanese twins Nima and Dawa have been successfully separated during a six-hour operation that was completed in quicker time than staff at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital had anticipated.
When the 15-month-old girls went into the operating theatre at 8am yesterday, head of paediatric surgery Joe Crameri predicted their operation was unlikely to be completed by 4pm and could extend into the evening.
By 2.30pm yesterday, media were being called to the hospital for a 4pm press conference after the successful operation.
“The first thing I’d like to say is through this journey we’ve learnt that Bhutan is certainly the land of happiness, but I was very pleased to report today it wasn’t the land of surprises,” Dr Crameri said.
“We are here earlier because there weren’t any things inside the girls’ tummies that we weren’t really prepared for.”
Dr Crameri congratulated the team he headed up, which included more than 20 surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists.
“All their hard work and effort over the past few weeks I think really paid dividends today,” he said. “We saw two young girls who were very ready for this surgery, who were able to cope very well with the surgery, and are currently in our recovery doing very well. And we’re pleased with that, but that takes a lot of work, and I think they all need to be congratulated.”
The girls were connected at the torso and share a liver, but doctors had been concerned about the extent to which they shared a bowel, which could have complicated the operation.
The sisters were brought to Australia with their mother, Bhumchu Zangmo, last month and have been staying at the Children First Foundation retreat in Kilmore.
The procedure and recovery are expected to cost at least $350,000 and the state government has offered to pay all expenses.
Other funds that have been raised through donations from generous Australians will go towards the twins’ rehabilitation and journey home.
Dr Crameri said the medical team had known the girls’ liver would be connected, but they had been able to divide it successfully, without any major bleeding.
“We’re very fortunate in that there wasn’t any significant bowel attachment,” Dr Crameri said.
“And while it was all swimming next to one another, it wasn’t actually connected in any major way, and really the main challenge today, as we thought, was getting the abdomen reconstructed so that both areas were closed over.
“Dr Jonathan Burge, who’s one of our plastic surgeons, assisted us in being able to get both muscle and skin closure for both girls.
“There will be challenges over the next 24 to 48 hours, as with any surgery.
“We feel quietly confident that we will have a good result and that’s what I’ve just told mum upstairs, but as with all post-operative things, we have to closely monitor things now for a while to be sure that we achieve our aim.”
Dr Crameri said Ms Zangmo was “very relieved”, and Bhutanese doctor Karma Sherub had played a role in liaising with the team and reassuring Ms Zangmo.
“I’ve just found out that she was very stressed today, so it has been a very difficult day for her,” he said.
“We’re fortunate Dr Karma here has come all the way from Bhutan, so he’s been able to give us assistance during the day, and it’s been invaluable for Dr Karma also to be able to explain to mum exactly what’s happened and to reassure her that everything’s gone well.”
Conjoined Bhutanese twins Dima and Nawa, above left, and above with the surgical team after their separation at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital