Formerly conjoined twins Nima and Dawa are still so close they are sharing a plane seat on their flight home to Bhutan four months after they were separated at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
The 20-month-old Bhutanese girls, who shared a liver and were connected from chest to pelvis, were successfully separated in November by a team of about 18 medical staff in a six-hour operation.
Their journey home on Wednesday with their mother Bhumchu Zangmo, and accompanied by two helpers, will take up to 22 hours.
The twins, who intertwined their legs to maintain contact after their surgery, are now learning to walk, but still sleeping in one bed.
“Nima’s walking and Dawa’s not far from walking, so they’re doing everything they should be doing and more,” the Children’s First Foundation’s Deb Pickering said.
“They do still like to be together. They both sleep very well. They have a morning and afternoon nap and they sleep all night through.
“They’re much the same as they were when they were together. We’ve got one that’s very much more outgoing and one that’s more placid – Nima’s the outgoing and Dawa’s the more placid.”
Ms Zangmo arrived at Melbourne airport’s departure terminal pushing her daughters in a double pram and accompanied by members of the Children’s First Foundation, which funded the surgery and their time in Australia.
“Thank you everybody … Nima and Dawa [are] so happy, and [I’m] happy. Thank you,” Ms Zangmo said.
She said she was overwhelmed by the care and support doctors provided to her daughters.
“Bhumchu just wanted to thank everybody from the bottom of her heart for everything that’s been done for her and especially her two little girls,” Ms Pickering said.
“She’s excited to be going home, but a bit sad to be leaving everyone behind, her new family.”
‘Two healthy, normal little girls’
Ms Zangmo said celebrations are awaiting the family upon their return to Bhutan, but their medical teams expect their life will return to normal once they settle in.
“Bhumchu was laughing yesterday because her husband was interviewed by someone [in Bhutan] and said ‘it’s very hard’ and she said ‘you should do a day in my shoes for the past six months’,” Ms Pickering laughed.
Medical teams in Bhutan will continue to support the girls as they grow, but they were not expected to need more than physiotherapy in future.
“No follow-up surgery at this point. They’re just expecting that now they’ve had that surgery, life will go back to normal,” Ms Pickering said.
“We don’t expect there are going to be any problems. They’ll continue to make their milestones and go forward in leaps and bounds from here on in.
“They’re just developing into beautiful little girls in every way.
“It’s the best outcome of all and that’s what she came here for and I think it’s gone way over and above all her expectations.
“She’s just so so happy to be taking home two healthy, normal little girls.”