MELBOURNE, Australia – Despite their new-found independence, the Bhutanese conjoined twins who were separated by doctors in Australia last week still want to be close to each other, nurses have told reporters.
The 15-month-old sisters Dawa and Nima Pelden flew nearly 6,000 miles for the life-changing operation. They were born joined at the stomach.
Nurse coordinator Kellie Smith, who works on the twins’ ward at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, told reporters Thursday that the pair are never far from one another.
“We try and have them a little bit apart,” Smith said, according to CNN. “But they manage to sort of bum shuffle back together and have their legs intertwined always.”
The nurse added that ward staff initially tried putting the twins in separate beds but “they didn’t like that at all.”
“They’re in the one bed together and just happy playing with one another, and it’s actually beautiful to see,” Smith added.
“They like their mother close too. They’re always looking for mum and she’s never far away.”
Girls have followed ‘the path that we set out for them’
Lead pediatric surgeon Joe Crameri said the girls were doing well six days after the operation.
“The girls have followed largely the path that we set out for them,” he said, CNN affiliate Channel 7 reported.
“Like any surgical pathway, there has been a few bumps in the road, and there are a few bumps we’re still smoothing out — but with all the resources we’ve got here at the Children’s Hospital … we’re making good progress at the current time.”
Crameri added that the sisters were “getting back to a more normal life.”
“They’re back to eating, and they’re starting to move around and the areas that we’ve repaired on their tummy wall seems to be holding up with the strain quite nicely.”
The delicate procedure, carried out November 9, took more than six hours and involved about 25 surgeons, nurses and anesthetists, according to CNN affiliate 9 News.
The twins were born via cesarean section last year and are believed to be Bhutan’s first conjoined twins. As well as issues with mobility and comfort, the twins had recently been losing weight, which was a concern to doctors, Elizabeth Lodge, CEO of Melbourne-based nonprofit Children First Foundation, which funded the operation said last month.
The girls’ operation was estimated to cost about $180,000 (250,000 Australian dollars), according to 9 News.
‘Delightful to look after’
Nurse coordinator Smith said Nima and Dawa have been a delight to look after, and that their personalities were shining through.
Megan Collins, another nurse on the ward, agreed that the pair were in good spirits.
“They’re loving interacting with the nursing staff,” Collins said.
“We’re now blowing bubbles and doing high fives, they love it when we’re watching the Wiggles — they’ll do little dance moves with their hands and what-not,” Channel 7 reported Collins as saying during a press conference.
“It’s really nice to see them separated. But they’re still really happy about wanting to be close to one another.”
Conjoined twins occur once every 200,000 live births, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. About 70% are female, and they are always identical twins.
Scientists believe that conjoined twins develop from a single fertilized egg that fails to separate completely as it divides.
“The success of surgery depends on where the twins are joined and how many and which organs are shared, as well as the experience and skill of the surgical team,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
They were previously commonly referred to as “Siamese twins,” a name that originated with Eng and Chang Bunker, conjoined twins who were born in Siam (now Thailand) in 1811. Never separated, they lived to the age of 63 and appeared in traveling exhibitions. Chang and Eng both married and fathered a total of 21 children between them.
While surgery to separate twins joined at the abdomen and other parts of their bodies can face complications, twins joined at the head are at a far greater risk.
The case of two American boys joined at the top of their skulls attracted global attention in 2016 when doctors successfully separated them after 27 hours of surgery.