Sis­ters do­ing it for them­selves

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - RACHEL BAXENDALE

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

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