78 med­i­cal of­fi­cers sep­a­rate con­joined twins in 12-hour op­er­a­tion

The Punch - - FRONT PAGE - Olufemi Atoyebi, Abuja

Acon­joined set of twins that had one liver, a pro­trud­ing tummy and a lower chest were suc­cess­fully sep­a­rated, in a 12-hour surgery in­volv­ing 78 med­i­cal per­son­nel, at the Na­tional Hos­pi­tal in Abuja.

Speak­ing dur­ing a brief­ing held to an­nounce the suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion, the Min­is­ter of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the feat was an in­di­ca­tion that Nige­rian hos­pi­tals were ready to com­pete with the best in the world.

The twins were both de­liv­ered at the Fed­eral Med­i­cal Hos­pi­tal, Keffi, Nasarawa State be­fore they were re­ferred to the NHA.

The min­is­ter said, “This is a demon­stra­tion of ex­cel­lent team work, which also shows that with con­fi­dence in the health sec­tor, we can do great things in Nige­ria. “One of the rea­sons why some Nige­ri­ans travel abroad for treat­ment is be­cause they lack con­fi­dence in the health sec­tor. They be­lieve that we do not have spe­cial­ists and the re­quired med­i­cal equip­ment to han­dle to han­dle sen­si­tive cases, but this case has shown that we have the ex­per­tise. No for­eign aid was in­volved in the surgery.

“The abil­ity of these ex­perts to work to­gether means that we can stand up to many in­ter­na­tional hos­pi­tals, as far as ad­vanced surgery is con­cerned. This is a com­plex one in­volv­ing con­joined twins with one liver.”

The leader of the team that per­formed the surgery, Prof Em­manuel Ameh, said the twins had to be mon­i­tored for 15 months be­fore the sep­a­ra­tion was done.

He said, “We re­ceived the twins on Au­gust 14, 2018 and quickly con­sti­tuted an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary team, in­clud­ing pe­di­atric sur­geons, car­diac sur­geons, plas­tic sur­geons, nurses, imag­ing ex­perts, der­ma­tol­o­gists and other ex­perts from var­i­ous med­i­cal dis­ci­plines, as well as sup­port staff.

“One of the ma­jor chal­lenges was that the twins came with their in­testines bulging out of the lower part of the tummy, which we quickly re­solved.

“We also needed to de­ter­mine if they could sur­vive separately af­ter sep­a­ra­tion. We found out that they had two sep­a­rate hearts that were nor­mal, but with a com­mon cover. They also shared the lower half of the chest and there was only one liver serv­ing the two of them. Other or­gans were sep­a­rate and nor­mal.”

Ameh added that be­fore the surgery, the twins needed to grow well in or­der to with­stand the com­plex surgery. He noted that nu­tri­tion and in­fec­tion con­trol were crit­i­cal in the prepa­ra­tion.

He added, “We cel­e­brated their first birth­day in the ward still con­joined. The surgery was per­formed on Novem­ber 14, 2019. By that time they were 15 month­sold. A to­tal of 78 med­i­cal staff was in­volved in the 12 and a half hour surgery. We even planned to spend 48 hours, if there was a need for it. Af­ter that, the twins spent a week at the In­ten­sive Care Unit be­fore they were taken to the ward.”

Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor of the hos­pi­tal, Dr Jaf Mo­moh, said at the event that the par­ents of the twins would have spent more than N20m if they could af­ford trav­el­ling abroad, adding that the hos­pi­tal took care of all the bills.

He said, “The cost of run­ning a hos­pi­tal is enor­mous. The av­er­age elec­tric­ity bill of the Na­tional Hos­pi­tal is about N19m ev­ery month. That is why we col­lect money. “We took it upon our­selves to mo­bilise re­sources and in­vest it on the twins.

If the par­ents had the means, they would have gone abroad like some other Nige­ri­ans and spent at least an equiv­a­lent of N20m in for­eign cur­rency. It is cheaper do­ing the surgery here. We can­not quan­tify the amount spent on the surgery.”

It was not the first time that con­joined twins were sep­a­rated in a sim­i­lar op­er­a­tion in a Nige­rian hos­pi­tal. On May 14, 2018, a team of sur­geons suc­cess­fully sep­a­rated four-month-old con­joined twins at the Fed­eral Med­i­cal Cen­tre, Yola.

Also, the Univer­sity of Abuja Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal on June 11 2018, an­nounced that it has sep­a­rated a con­joined twins re­ferred to the cen­tre from the St. Mary Catholic Hos­pi­tal, Gwa­gal­ada, Abuja.

•Pho­tos: Olatunji Obasa

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