Story By: James King, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Real Press
These conjoined twins have been baptised by Pope Francis in the Vatican after finally being separated.
The pair were recently separated from being joined at the head through complex surgery which involved separating their brains with 3D technology.
The girls, named Ervina and Prefina, underwent the complex operations at the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital, in Rome, the Italian capital, after they were born in the Central African Republic with a rare and complicated fusion of the vascular system of their brains and skull.
The hospital said in a statement it was the first time in Italy that a team of specialised surgeons had managed to separate twins joined from the head.
A spokesman at the hospital which is owned by the Vatican said that after the successful surgery, the Pope and agreed to baptise them because the mother, identified only by her first name Ermine, “really wanted the Pope to baptise them”.
The sisters arrived in Italy in September 2018 after the director of the hospital agreed with them being treated there.
Tests at the hospital showed that the twin girls were in good health but one of their hearts was working harder in order to maintain the physiological balance of their organs, including their brains, according to the hospital.
The press statement said the girls aged two had very different personalities, with Prefina being more vivacious and playful while her sister, Ervina, was quieter and more serious.
The hospital explained that the most difficult challenge was dealing with a network of shared blood vessels which took blood from their brains back to their hearts.
The three surgeries to reconstruct their independent venous systems were planned using 3D reconstruction software, a neurostimulator and other technological devices.
The girls’ skull was recreated in 3D and the last of the surgeries took 18 hours and involved 30 doctors and nurses, taking place on 5th June 2020 when the bones of the shared skull were split.
After that, the surgeons rebuilt the membrane covering the two brains and recreated the skin over the new skulls.
The hospital said: “A month after the final separation, the twin girls are fine.”
Carlos Marras, the Head of Neurosurgery at the hospital said in the press statement that “it was a very touching moment, a fantastic and unique experience” adding that “it was an ambitious goal and we did our best to get it done, with passion, optimism and joy”.
Dr Marras was one of those who attended the baptism according to a tweet from Antoinette Montaigne who was a former government official in the Central African Republic and lawyer specialising in children’s rights.
Pope Francis visited a hospital when he went to the Central African Republic back in 2015 and after returning to Rome he asked the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome to begin a project there.
Representatives of the hospital then discovered the twins and set in motion plans for the surgery which has now been successfully completed.
The hospital warned that there are still risks of infection and the girls will need to use protective helmets for several months.
Post-surgery observations show their two brains are seemingly unaffected and the girls should be able to grow up having a normal life “like all girls of their age”.
The hospital said only one in 2.5 million births are conjoined at the head.
Their mother thanked the hospital for their work and all the people taking care of her children. She said: “Ervina and Prefina were born twice. If we had been in Africa, I do not know what their destiny would have been.
She said: “My children now can grow up, study and become doctors to save other children.”
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