Pretoria - In an operation that has been hailed as groundbreaking, doctors at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital have successfully separated conjoined twins who have been at the hospital since they were born in February.
The operation is only the second successful separation of conjoined twins at the hospital in 15 years.
The two boys, Recall and Recant Sibuyi, were joined at the abdomen and pelvis, and shared several organs when they were admitted to the hospital following their birth at a hospital in Mpumalanga.
But it was smiles all round on Sunday at the city hospital when the announcement was made that they had been successfully separated.
The twins were separated during a six-hour operation last Thursday and then placed in the intensive care unit to minimise the chances of complications.
Such complications could include wound sepsis, bleeding and incontinence of urine and faeces.
Doctors said on Sunday that although the twins were expected to undergo subsequent operations to fashion each boy’s lower colon and anus, they could be expected to lead healthy lives, including walking on their own.
According to the doctors, the twins were out of danger and almost ready to be transferred to an ordinary paediatric ward.
Their mother, Bongi Sibuyi, said she was overjoyed that the boys were now two separate individuals, thanks to the great work performed by the doctors.
“I am very grateful that the operation has been successful.
“I wish to thank the doctors and the hospital for making it happen.
“It was going to be very hard for me to raise them in the state they were in before. Now I will be able to pick them up and raise them like other children.
“I want to thank God for all He has done to save them and pray that He will help them live healthy lives like other children.”
It has indeed been a long road for the twins, with complications having delayed the operation.
During their first two weeks at the hospital, they underwent an emergency procedure to remove an obstruction in the bowel.
They experienced another setback when Recant had complications caused by adhesions from the previous surgery, forcing the baby boys to return to the operating theatre.
Recant was not feeding well and had to be taken back to the theatre yet again after problems developed with scar tissue.
Paediatric surgeon Dr Ernst Muller, who was part of the team performing the surgery, said one of the challenges with the operation had been the need to close the pelvis in order for the team to close the abdominal wall.
He said he had also been very concerned about whether they would be able to separate the babies’ penises, but this had ultimately been achieved without many problems.
“It is always necessary to wait for the babies to grow and develop first before we can determine whether it will be possible to separate them. It is very difficult when they are still very small,” Muller said.
“For instance, we did not know whether it would be possible to separate their conjoined penises, we only established this when they had grown enough.”
The team were happy and relieved that the babies did not experience any serious bleeding after surgery, were able to cope without ventilators, and were now almost ready to be moved to a ward, Muller said.
The Steve Biko Academic Hospital was proud to have doctors who were able to perform such surgery, its chief executive officer, Dr Ernest Kenoshi, said.
“This is only the second successful separation of conjoined twins at this hospital in 15 years and we are proud it has been achieved.
“The babies have been here ever since they were born. We are happy and relieved that the separation has been successful,” said Kenoshi.
According to Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo, the successful separation of the twins had confirmed the province as a centre for excellence in medical care.
“We are really fortunate to have the best of brains who are recognised around the world,” Papo said.
“With support from the leadership and staff at the department we can enable them to do what they have done here. We are sure there will be more successes of this nature.”
Kenoshi said it was too early to pronounce on the fate of another set of conjoined twins at the hospital, Neo and Reneilwe, admitted after their birth in Mpumalanga earlier this month. They are joined at the chest and share most vital organs, adding to concerns that it may not be possible to separate them.