Zimbabwe: Family Rejoices in Successful Conjoined Twins Surgery

Going under surgery is not an easy experience for anyone.

Some mothers fail to stomach the news of their pregnant daughters going under the knife to deliver. Just the thought of being given anaesthesia is frightening even to adults.

It must therefore have been a harrowing experience for a mother knowing her infants were going through a major operation. Doctors had to separate the two babies who were conjoined and sharing some organs, an operation scheduled to take no less than eight hours!

A group of Zimbabwean doctors were two weeks ago given the task of separating 10-week-old conjoined twins, Kupakwashe and Tapiwanaishe Chitiyo who were born on April 22 at Murehwa District Hospital.

The two boys were joined from the upper chest to the lower abdomen and shared a liver which had to be separated.

Team leader, a paediatric surgeon Bothwell Mbuwayesango who presided over the surgical operation said it took the medical team eight hours and a lot of hard work and dedication to conduct the operation successfully.

"We managed to separate the twins successfully, and this was through team work," Mbuwayesango said. "We had close to 50 doctors, nurses, assistants... ., we needed everyone even the cleaners to be able to separate the twins properly."

Mbuwayesango said such operations needed proper planning for them to be successful.

"We worked together very well and the team exclusively comprised of Zimbabwean doctors. There was no help from outside," he said. "The twins are separated and are in the intensive care unit, they are feeding and breathing on their own but we will have them in hospital for a while."

On the issue of separating the liver so that each one of them possesses his own, Mbuwayesango said: "They have good enough sized livers, it was like two livers joined together so each one of the livers has enough tissue which is needed. But even though, 20% of the liver is enough to do what a liver does as it can regenerate and grow to a normal size."

The mother of the twins, Agnes Mongoro could not hide her joy after the operation.

"I was extremely worried when I gave birth to the twins but after counselling I accepted and started praying for them," Mangoro said.

"I didn't know they could be separated but when we came here it was discussed and we went through a lot of examinations for the children and the doctors said they would operate on the children to separate them and here they are; they have been successfully separated".

The father, Moses Chitiyo said the road had not been easy since the twins were born, but praised God for all that had happened. He said God was trying to send a message to the family.

"When you know that your wife has gone to deliver, you just expect that she will just come with the baby," Chitiyo said.

"I was shocked when I received a call that she had given birth to conjoined twins, and was being transferred to Harare Hospital. But when I saw her and the children I was not so depressed because the children looked healthy even though they were joined. I had hope that they would be fine."

"God had a reason and was trying to put across a message to us," he said. "I have been there for my wife, coming here every day to visit her and the babies. We are really excited because God has answered our prayers, having to have the boys separated successfully is amazing and we thank God for the wonderful work that has been done."

Chitiyo is a fruit and vegetable vendor at Murehwa Business Centre. He said since the children were born he had been working hard to have a better life for his children.

"We have been staying in Bhora village with my brother but last month I looked for accommodation for my family at Murehwa Centre for the mother to be at peace with the family," Chitiyo said.

The couple has two other children, aged four and one year seven months.

According to the University of Maryland Centre, conjoined twins occur once every 200 000 births. They have a survival rate of between 5% and 25%. Many are stillborn, and others die a few hours after delivery.

In a very few cases, twins sharing a heart have survived for several years. Ruthie and Verena Cady of Rhode Island lived to the age of seven and were healthy, active girls who rode a tricycle, swam, did gymnastics and went to school. Their shared heart had only three chambers.

Other famous twins conjoined who were separated were the South Africans, Mpho and Mponyana who were joined at the head.

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