The Royal Children’s Hospital is confident a planned operation to separate conjoined Bhutanese twins will be successful and they will both go on to healthy and normal, independent lives.
Mother Bhumchu Zangmo initially expressed deep fears that the sudden death of one of her 14-month-old girls would also kill the other sibling.
But the hospital’s head of paediatric surgery, Dr Joe Crameri, said on Tuesday that he hoped tiny twins Nima and Dawa Pelden – who arrived in Melbourne about midday Tuesday (AEST) – would survive the separation surgery.
Surgeons do not yet have a timetable for the operation. Dr Crameri said the initial focus would be to ensure the Bhutanese girls were healthy enough for the surgery, which has taken more than a year to organise.
“Our next step, really, is to physically examine the twins and we have some more detailed scans for later in the week,” he said.
“Then we’ll be able to formulate a more correct plan for how we can separate these twins.”
Nima and Dawa are joined predominantly in the abdomen and slightly in the lower part of the chest, Dr Crameri said.
The surgical team’s focus will be on the effective separation of their bowels and livers.
Dr Chris Kimber, from Monash Children’s Hospital, was the first Australian medico to learn of the girls’ plight.
He later asked the Children First Foundation to help him bring the sisters to Australia. Their hometown in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, between China and India, is not equipped to carry out the life-changing surgery.
Children First Foundation chief executive Elizabeth Lodge said the twins had lost weight recently, and had been in hospital to improve their nutrition.
Their mother is “really looking forward to the operation happening, sooner rather than later”, she said. But she also reported that Nima and Dawa – “like any siblings” – are “getting a little bit frustrated with each other”.
Ms Lodge said the family was relying on the generosity of the Australian public to cover the approximate $250,000 cost of the surgery.
“Royal Children’s Hospital have very kindly given Children First Foundation a humanitarian rate to enable this surgery to occur,” she said.
Ms Lodge said another $100,000 would be needed to accommodate the girls and their mother for up to six months of rehabilitation after the surgery.
“We will meet that target because we know how incredibly kind the Australian community are,” she said.
“We’re all terribly excited and looking forward to their futures.”