A little girl has traveled from Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa to Illinois in order to receive a daring operation to remove her parasitic twin, in what the hospital describes as an "exceedingly rare variant of an already exceedingly rare condition."
The child, known only as Dominique, was born with the lower half of her undeveloped conjoined twin's body – including two legs and a pelvis – attached to her upper back and spinal cord. This is a particularly extreme example of what's known as a parasitic rachipagus twin.
The hospital announced on Tuesday that the 10-month-old baby is now recovering quickly after her surgery at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, on March 8, 2017. The extraordinary case involved over 50 physicians from start to finish.
The operation was an incredible gamble for the small child, but also extremely necessary. Dominique’s small heart and lungs were experiencing enormous pressure as they were having to provide half an extra body with blood and oxygen. On top of that, she was extremely vulnerable to paralysis because they were attached at the spinal cord.
The surgery begins. Advocate Children’s Hospital
“Anybody’s first reaction to seeing a picture of her is: ‘Oh my god, can you do this?’ and it is complicated,” Frank Vicari, the chief reconstructive surgeon at Advocate Children’s Hospital, said at a live-streamed press conference on Tuesday. “This is what we do and it’s very exciting to us, so you’re in awe about it, but it’s pretty exciting! It’s a challenge.”
Dominique's family sought medical treatment for her condition from Children’s Medical Mission West, a US charity that organized the whole process. Unfortunately, her parents could not afford to accompany her on the trip, so she's been taken care of by Nancy Swabb since she arrived in the US.
“She’s about 2 pounds [0/.9 kilogram] lighter and she’s sitting up, she’s raising her hands and reaching out for things. She's doing really well," Swabb said. “She’s not used to press conferences so she’s not smiling. But it’s really been an honor to be her host family."
All being well, Dominique should be healthy enough to travel home to Cote d'Ivoire within the coming weeks.
Dominique with Nancy Swabb just after the operation. Advocate Children’s Hospital
Recovering from the surgery. Advocate Children’s Hospital