A PhD student who was having a lot of trouble concentrating discovered she had something strange on her mind—an embryonic twin complete with hair, bone, and teeth. A surgeon made the disturbing find when he reached into the brain of 26-year-old Yamini Karanam to extract what was thought to be a brain tumor, NBC Los Angeles reports. The Indiana student is expected to make a full recovery, and her sense of humor has remained intact: She says the surgeon managed to remove the "evil twin sister who's been torturing me for the past 26 years." Karanam paid for the trip to LA and the surgery, which was not fully covered by insurance, using $32,000 her friends raised in a GiveForward campaign, which notes that before the surgery, Karanam spent six months seeing "quite a few neurologists and neurosurgeons across the country" trying to get answers.
Karanam realized something was wrong when she started to struggle with reading and listening comprehension last fall. "Months and weeks slipped through her fingers. There weren’t any diagnostic procedures left to run on her," she recalls in a blog post about those months. Now, she tells NBC that more people should know about the methods that Dr. Hrayr Shahinian at the Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles helped develop. He was able to remove the twin by what he calls "keyhole surgery" requiring only a small incision in the brain. Such undeveloped, unborn twins are called "teratomas" and they are rare but not unheard of: Shahinian says he has extracted 7,000 or 8,000 brain tumors in his career and found only one other such twin. (A baby girl in Hong Kong was born pregnant with twin fetuses.)