Conjoined Twin Girls Successfully Separated in Nigeria, Hospital Employs Struggling Parents

February 20, 2021 Updated: February 20, 2021

Warning: This article includes content some readers may find disturbing

A set of conjoined twin girls have been separated at a teaching hospital in Nigeria, making it the first successful operation of its kind in the hospital’s recorded history.

“We felt very bad and depressed when we got to know that the babies are conjoined twins,” parents Hammed Taiwo, 33, and Suleiman Tawakalitu, 25, told The Epoch Times via email. “[We pursued surgery] because we wanted to see our babies, and to see them one by one.”

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Habiba and Mahabuba before surgery (Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

The husband and wife, of New-Bussa in Niger State, work as an aluminum fabricator and a hairdresser respectively. Their babies’ groundbreaking surgery was overseen by Professor Lukman Abdur-Rahman, consultant pediatric surgeon at Nigeria’s University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH).

A 66-member all-Nigerian team separated conjoined twins Habiba and Mahabuba on Jan. 5. The babies were thoraco-omphalopagus conjoined twins, meaning they were joined at the chest and abdomen, and were only 127 days old at the time of their surgery.

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(Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

“The babies were delivered through an emergency Caesarean section at General Hospital New Bussa, Niger State, following a prolonged labor at a private clinic,” Abdur-Rahman explained to The Epoch Times. It was Tawakalitu’s first pregnancy, and she lost a lot of blood.

“They were aware of the twin pregnancy, but the babies were never detected to be joined even with repeated ultrasound scans,” said Abdur-Rahman.

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(Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

Twelve hours after being born on Aug. 30, 2020, the baby girls were admitted to the hospital’s NICU with sepsis and omphalocele (incomplete skin coverage of the abdomen). They also shared an umbilical cord.

A crack team comprising pediatric and cardiothoracic surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists, behavioral scientists, social workers, biomedical engineers, and clergy, among others, was assembled “in preparation for any eventuality,” said the professor.

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Members of the multidisciplinary Conjoined Twin Management Team with the babies and their parents. (Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)
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Professor Lukman Abdur-Rahman (Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

While the twins were joined at the lower chest wall, and from the upper abdomen down to the navel, the girls shared no major blood vessels, and their livers and intestines were separate, which helped them stand a good chance of independent survival.

“I feel very happy and give thanks to God Almighty for the successful surgery on our babies,” said their father. “They are very fine and healthy now. We thank … Prof. Abdur-Rahman and my family members at large.”

The baby girls were presented to the public, with the consent of their parents, a day after the surgery.

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Professor Lukman Abdur-Rahman with the twins, successfully separated (Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

Maintaining their health in the lead-up to surgery was no mean feat, said Abdur-Rahman. “This is due to lack of pediatric specific equipment,” he explained, “and most times we adapt the inadequate adult equipment to care for the children.”

Meanwhile, UITH’s chief medical director (CMD), Professor Abdullah Yussuf, told The Guardian that the equipment shortage is “a general phenomenon in many institutions like ours. Some of our equipment have gone obsolete.”

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(Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

The CMD called the twins’ successful separation a “breakthrough,” thanking the Kwara state governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, for a substantial grant that allowed the team to perform the life-changing surgery.

“This is the first successful conjoined twin separation at UITH Ilorin since 2005 and 2015,” Abdur-Rahman told The Epoch Times. Sadly, both sets of twins from the previous surgeries passed away.

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UITH’s management team and the babies, with Professor Abdur-Rahman in the back row, far right (Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

Taiwo and Tawakalitu were ostracized by their community and advised by people they knew to abandon or poison their babies due to their babies being conjoined. However, they received psychological support from nurses, clinical psychologists, and the clergy.

“They placed their faith in God because their situation was even compounded by being indigent, and [they] could not raise funds for the care of the babies,” said Abdur-Rahman. “They were amazed to learn that the babies could be separated and still live a normal life, and were filled with joy when they were discharged.”

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Habiba and Mahabuba with their parents (Courtesy of Lukman Abdur-Rahman)

Hearing the twins’ parents asking for financial help from their fellow Nigerians, the CMD announced that the teaching hospital would promptly employ them both, reported The Guardian.

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