Miraculous Survival of First Mermaid Baby in China

November 29, 2006 Updated: November 29, 2006

A baby boy from China's Hunan Province was born with the rare affliction sirenomelia , also known as “mermaid syndrome.” Those born with the syndrome are born with the legs joined from hip to toe. Some of the child's organs are severely deformed, requiring significant medical care. This is the first case of a mermaid baby in mainland China.

According to China's Changsha evening news service, the mermaid baby was born on November 9 and was transferred to Hunan Province Children's Hospital ICU three days later. His body below the abdomen is one solid mass, and only his toes remain separated. Medical experts refer to this deformity as mermaid syndrome since the anatomy resembles that of a mermaid: the mythical man/fish possessing a caudal fin instead of legs.

Those born with mermaid syndrome are extremely rare and individuals often do not survive for more than a couple hours. Up until now, there were only two people born with mermaid syndrome worldwide who survived the surgery required to separate their legs. The baby boy in Hunan Province Children's Hospital represents the third case in the world.

Treatment is challenging, as area doctors have no experience to guide them. Luckily, the baby's legs, while attached, have been found to possess their own independent skeletal and circulatory systems, making surgery a possibility. Yet, doctors realize that even if the surgery for separating this small baby's legs is successful, it doesn't promise a normal life. Their other challenge is a surgical strategy for fixing his deformed organs. The risk for such a complicated procedure cannot yet be estimated.

The physician in charge of the case explains that in addition to his leg deformity, this baby was also born without an anus, making excretion difficult. Another concern is his genitals. While not fully developed, this baby does have testes attached to both sides of his inner abdomen leading doctors to conclude his gender. Despite these challenges, doctors remain hopeful as the Hunan baby has so far miraculously survived for nearly two weeks.