Many have watched the CNN report on the separation of the McDonald baby twin boys recently. Conjoined at the head the miracle of their journey from birth until they finally went home has gripped many in the world. A 27-hour operation in October last year was widely reported and their frequent struggles to overcome infections, seizures, and pain could not have been easy for mother, Nicole, or the rest of the family.
The question is why do such babies suffer? Why are so many subjected to such horror and what must it be like to have 2 gorgeous babies so handicapped as to be conjoined at the head?
There are a hundred other questions to follow. How could the mother carry these babies in her womb? How were they accommodated during the birthing process? How were they cared for as a long continuous shape afterwards?
They look beautiful and will surely grow into handsome boys and it is praiseworthy that the parents allowed the risky operation in the first place. Other conjoined at the head twins, such as those of the Iranian twins, Laleh and Ladan Bijani, have not survived. In the case of the latter the two women demanded to be separated at the age of 29 years.
Living as they did in compulsory partnership their every move was conducted as a joint venture. It was such a drag on the one who compromised so the other could do her independent thing, such as study a degree at University, that the time had come when death was preferable to living on in that state.
While they did not want to die the facts are that they were not suitable candidates for the separation. While they were repeatedly warned against the operation they insisted on it being carried out. ‘
In the words of one of the surgeons, Dr. Ben Carson, the older brains were too adherent to each other. The bones of the skulls were extremely thick and finally their combined weight of 100 kilograms or more made for a difficult platform to work with.
In the case of the babies these things were not factors in their separation. They could be easily ‘flipped over’ from side to side making access easier. Their skulls were still tender and easy to separate, and their young age worked in their favour.
While they now have their lives ahead of them the absolute joy they have already delivered to their family and the hospital staff where they were treated is a huge bonus. While operations of this type are risky the lessons learned are important for the healthcare systems that will continue to help such babies in the future.
Norma Holt has knowledge that enables her to understand many issues. Social and behavioural problems are usually on her list for discussion and the depth of her research will amaze.