The doctors spent 13 hours performing complex surgery to separate Goodness and Mercy Martins at the National Hospital Abuja. The surgery involved 78 doctors working in two groups.
Goodness and Mercy Martins were born on 13th of August 2018 at the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi Nasarawa state, through a caesarean session.
Their unemployed mother had no idea she was expecting twins and she was even more shocked when they came out joined at the chest and abdomen.
Lead surgeon Emmanuel Ameh told the BBC the operation to separate Goodness and Mercy Martins at the chest and abdomen took place in November and the two sisters were now well enough to go home.
He said the operation, which cost about $55,000, was complicated. But the medics at National Hospital Abuja did not charge for their work because the twins’ parents – Michael Edeh and Maria Onya Martins – could not afford the medical bills. They rely on Mr Martins’ salary as a painter to get by.
Speaking at the formal presentation of the separated twins on Tuesday, January 7 in Abuja, ahead of their discharge from National Hospital on Wednesday, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, attributed the successful outcome of the surgery to the teamwork and administrative support the experts at the hospital received.
He said: “These beautiful girls of Benue State origin and their proud parents, are beneficiaries of a healthcare system, when it functions as it supposed to.
“The case management team has demonstrated that our health system, even with modest resources, can rise up to the highest challenges and offer quality care, to find its position among renowned international hospitals.”
The girls were brought to the National Hospital in Abuja a day after their birth. Since then, they have undergone four operations by a team of experts including paediatricians, neurologists, anesthesiologists, plastic surgeons, radiologists and others who spent 16 months treating them until they were well enough for the surgery to separate them.
Consultant pediatric surgeon, Professor Emmanuel Ameh, who led the team of experts, explained that the case Goodness and Mercy Martins was unusual because they were joined at two of the most delicate organs of the body.
He presented a short animation video which explained the steps taken to separate the sisters.
“This is an extremely rare condition. The biggest challenge we faced had to do with their separation at the chest region. This is really the first time that twins joined in the chest and the abdomen are separated throughout the entire country. All the other separated twins are joined only in one organ,” Ameh said.
The National Hospital Abuja has separated about 11 conjoined twins over the last 20 years, but in those cases all the twins had been joined at the abdomen.
The hospital’s medical director, Jaff Momoh, said this case stood out as it was the first time an operation had involved the lower chest wall, liver and diaphragm.
Mr Martins, a painter from Oturkpo, said he was so happy to see his daughters alive and well. He added that the family was looking forward to returning home.
He said: “I am so happy to see Goodness wrapped separately. I initially couldn’t believe it. My gratitude goes to God and the medical team. May this success continue.”
His wife said words were not enough to thank the team of doctors and the kindness of the hospital staff.
The minister of health has visited the hospital to praise the efforts of the medics and meet the family. Also, the women’s affairs minister has promised to give Mrs Martin a job to help the family.