Nigerian conjoined twins: from social media to surgery
No jobs, no home, then conjoined twins. But thanks to social media their babies could be separated and things are looking up
THE couple was overjoyed to discover they were expecting twins – two babies would ease the heartache of losing their first child, who was stillborn. But their happiness turned to shock when the twins were delivered conjoined at the abdomen. “The birth was a rollercoaster experience for us,” new dad Ferdinand Buzugbe (36) of Abuja, Nigeria said. “When I saw them I wept. I was confused. I cried, ‘Why me?’”
For Ferdinand it was all too much to bear. In the space of a year he had lost his firstborn and his job as a real-estate valuer, and he had just learnt he and his wife, Courage (31), were to be evicted from their home.
“I was almost losing my mind. I thought, ‘No job, no house, mounting bills and now conjoined twins – how would they survive?’”
But Courage was more positive. Her babies were alive and where there was life, there was hope.
“When they cried I was consoled. I never heard my other baby cry,” she said.
Doctors assured the couple the baby boys, named Elijah and Elisha, stood a good chance of being successfully separated when they were five or six months old. But Ferdinand and Courage were worried: how would they ever be able to afford the R30 000 they needed for the operation?
THEY needn’t have worried. Their doctor posted a picture of the twins on Instagram along with a plea for help and within minutes enough money had been raised for their surgery – most of it donated by Nigerian politician Yakubu Dogara.
The operation took place in late October. Dr Olori Sampson, the lead surgeon, explained that one of the biggest hurdles was ensuring the twins were in good health in the lead-up to the surgery.
They needed to be as strong as possible to stand the best chance of a full recovery and once they were given the all clear a surgical team assembled at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.
It was the first time an operation of this kind was to be performed at the hospital and required six weeks of careful planning.
“After the initial clinical assessments there were several CT scan investigations to determine which organs were joined.
“So we knew their livers were joined. We had five sessions with all the teams coming together to plan and deter mine the best approach,” Dr Sampson said.
The hospital’s management provided the surgical team with “modern gadgets to make sure the surgery went well,” the doctor added. “And it did go well as we contained the surgery to about five hours.”
The twins, now six months old, are doing fine, he said. “For now there are no major concerns.”
They might need more follow-up surgeries and will be closely monitored by Dr Sampson and his team. They’ll stay in hospital for the foreseeable future.
The hospital wrote off the cost of the surgery because it was the first of its kind, spokesperson Frank Omagbon said.
The money raised for the surgery was donated to Courage and Ferdinand, who are still jobless. But it has helped them to secure a house, albeit temporarily, and start dreaming of the day they’ll finally bring their babies home and start life together as a family.
Conjoined twins Elijah and Elisha Buzugbe (RIGHT) were separated after a five-hour operation at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (LEFT).
ABOVE: Politician Yakubu Dogara donated most of the money needed for the op. RIGHT: The twins’ parents, Courage and Ferdinand Buzugbe.