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Joyous moment for mum of conjoined twins as she takes her babies home

Twin babies Siphosethu Minentle and Amahle Sukoluhle Tyhalisi, who were born joined in the head and recently separated in a major surgery at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, are now back home in the Eastern Cape .pic supplied

Twin babies Siphosethu Minentle and Amahle Sukoluhle Tyhalisi, who were born joined in the head and recently separated in a major surgery at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, are now back home in the Eastern Cape .pic supplied

Published May 16, 2021

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CONJOINED twins who were successfully separated by doctors at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital were discharged this week and are recovering at home in the Eastern Cape.

The 15-week-old twins, Siphosethu and Amahle Tyhalisi, who were joined at the head, were successfully separated in February and they now live with their mother, two other siblings and relatives in eDrayini village, near Dutywa.

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Their mother, Ntombikayise Tyhalisi still could not believe that the babies survived the operation and she was now able to hold one in each arm.

But after beating the odds, the mother now struggles to feed them as she is unemployed.

“The twins are doing well. Some of the family members are still struggling to tell them apart. But we've noticed that Siphosethu tends to lean on her neck a lot. Both have brought joy to us,” she said.

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Professor Tony Figaji, head of paediatric neurosurgery at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, said conjoined twins were very rare.

The twins were joined at the head in what was medically referred to as craniopagus twinning.

“It’s the rarest form of conjoined twinning. Craniopagus twins occur approximately once in every 2.5 million live births worldwide,” Figaji said.

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However, the connection between the girls did not involve any shared brain tissue or major blood vessels, said Figaji.

The team of doctors worked on each twin for only 90 minutes to successfully perform the surgery.

“This is a huge plus for the recovery of the twins,” said Professor Saleigh Adams, the head of plastic surgery.

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The hospital said the focus now would be on ensuring the healthy healing of the surgical areas.

Tyhalisi said although her late mother was a twin, she never imagined that she would give birth to twins.

“I attended the local clinic but it was never detected that I carried twins. However, local elderly women told me to expect twins – they said they could tell by the way I carried the pregnancy,” Tyhalisi added.

The twin girls were delivered in a hospital in Gcuwa and were transferred to Frere Hospital in East London before they were flown to Cape Town for the surgery.

“I was excited when they broke the news that I had given birth to twins. But my joy soon faded when I was told they were joined in the skull and I could not immediately hold them.

“It broke my heart to see them in the incubator. But I am glad that all that pain is now over. I am extremely grateful to the health care staff that has given me support throughout this journey.

“When I arrived at the Red Cross hospital the twins had a few sets of clothes that were donated by nurses in East London. On the day I left the Red Cross hospital, I had bags full of what they needed, thanks to the medical staff who bought them clothes. The twins have stolen the hearts of many people,” Tyhalisi said

However, the unemployed mother would have to apply for a new ID to be able to apply for a social grant for the twins, after losing it in a fire a few months ago.

“The twins now depend on handouts from a relative – he buys them milk formula and diapers as I cannot afford to. It costs a lot of money. He also has his own responsibilities to take care of,” added Tyhalisi.

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