Siamese twins’ operation gets underway


SINGAPORE, AP

Doctors in Singapore on Saturday completed the first phase of a risky marathon surgery to separate 10-month-old Siamese twin girls from Nepal who are joined at the skulls, an official said.

“So far, the first part of the surgery is successful,” said M.N. Swami, Nepal’s honorary consul general in Singapore.

The first phase of the extremely rare and complex operation began Friday and was completed early Saturday, Swami told The Associated Press at Singapore General Hospital, where the surgery was taking place.

Swami, who said he spoke with one of the surgeons involved in the operation, said the two teams of doctors have been working round the clock and hoped to finish the procedure on Sunday.

He gave no details about what the completed first phase of the surgery entailed. Singapore General Hospital spokeswoman Junaidah Hamid on Saturday said only that the surgery was “still going on.”

Ganga and Jamuna Shrestha are joined at the tops of the heads and share the same brain cavity. Parts of their brains are fused, making the operation all the more difficult.

Both girls are playful and full of character, and appear relatively healthy despite their condition, Swami said.

“Ganga, she held my hand, she was smiling at me” just before the surgery, he said earlier. “The other one is a bit the shy type … very sweet-looking, very calm.”

The girls, who come from a poor family in a village outside the Nepalese capital Katmandu, have captured the hearts of Singaporeans, appearing frequently on the front pages of newspapers.

Residents of the affluent Southeast Asian city state have donated about 650,000 Singapore dollars (US$358,000) to pay for the girls’ hospital bills, postoperative care and future medical needs.

Singapore General Hospital has waived many of its charges. National carrier Singapore Airlines paid for the girls, their parents and their grandfather to make the trip from Nepal.

The twins’ family members have been living with the Gurkha military community in Singapore since coming to Singapore several months ago.

The Gurkhas, who come from Nepal, are famous for their service as a special group within the British military. In Singapore, they work with the police and have long guarded the residence of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore.

For the past several months, doctors in Singapore have been working to stretch the skin on the twin girls’ heads in order to cover their wounds after surgery.

To do this, balloon-like devices were inserted under the skin on the girls’ heads and gradually inflated with fluid.

A neurosurgeon in Nepal referred the Shrestha family to doctors in Singapore, a highly developed country known in the region for its high standard of medical care.