Many new parents joke about counting fingers and toes when their baby is born, but a mother in the Ivory Coast was confronted with an entire extra pair of legs—and those legs were growing out of her baby girl's spine. The cause is actually straightforward: Baby Dominique (her last name isn't being released) was developing in utero with a twin, but as sometimes happens, she absorbed her twin's body. Well, most of it. The legs, feet, and spine of the so-called "parasitic twin" who required Dominique's organs to survive fused to Dominique's spine. They would eventually not only prove cumbersome but also tax her heart and shorten her life, reports the BBC. "That amount of mass and disturbance in that area would cause her significant spinal problems as she grew," one surgeon said.
Five surgeons spent six hours using an "enormous" amount of specialized imaging to remove the twin's anatomy (including bones, blood vessels, and nerves, reports the Chicago Tribune) from Dominique's spine—a risky operation that could have resulted in paralysis. The team at Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., tells Reuters the operation was a success and that the 10-month-old is thriving at her Chicago area foster home. "She has touched our hearts," her foster mother Nancy Swabb said, holding back tears as she called the "amazing" girl "resilient." Dominique will be reunited with her parents and three older sisters, who are regularly updated with photos and stories, as soon as she can travel. The Ohio-based nonprofit Children's Medical Missions West sponsored her trip. (This infant in Iran was granted a waiver to have life-saving surgery in Oregon.)