Separated Twins Are Home, but Surgeon Remains Troubled

Decision made in operation led to a stroke for one of the girls
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2020 7:40 PM CDT
Separated Twins Are Home, but Surgeon Remains Troubled
Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where conjoined twins were separated in a series of surgeries.   (Getty/TonyBaggett)

Safa and Marwa Bibi are home in Pakistan after spending more than 50 hours in surgery last year to separate them over three operations. The girls, now 3½, were born joined at the head; a minority of twins born with a fused skull survive. "The girls are doing very well," said their mother, Zainab Bibi. Their care cost more than $1 million, which was paid by a Pakistani businessman, and involved more than 100 people at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, the BBC reports. Both girls have learning disabilities. Safa suffered a stroke and has permanent brain damage. She might not ever walk. The stroke was the result of a decision the team made during the operations that the lead surgeon said probably will always bother him.

The twins shared blood vessels to the brain, and the surgical team had to decide which girl to give some key blood vessels to. They were given to Marwa, who was the weaker of the two. "It's a decision that I made as a surgeon," said Dr. Owase Jeelani, who led the team in the surgeries that were completed in February 2019. "It's one that we made as a team. It's a decision we have to live with." Marwa is doing well, Jeelani said, but Safa's stroke troubles him, though her mother considers the team's work heroic. The surgeries allowed the twins to see the other's face for the first time, per the New York Times. "When I look at the whole family, yes, it was probably the right thing to do," Jeelani said, "but for Safa as an individual I'm not so sure." (More conjoined twins stories.)

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