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Abuja, Nigeria (CNB News) – A team of doctors in Nigeria have successfully separated one-year-old conjoined twins.

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 (£42,000), was complicated and lasted for about 12 hours. It involved 78 doctors working in two groups. 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.

The couple had first brought their daughters to hospital in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in August 2018 just after their birth. But the doctors couldn’t operate on them immediately as they were not well enough.

They were cared for at the government-owned hospital for the next 15 months and their strength built up over time. The green light was then given for the operation. The hospital 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 said he was so happy to see his daughters alive and well – and the family were looking forward to returning home.

His wife said words were not enough to thank the team of doctors and the kindness of the hospital staff.

She said she had felt heartbroken when the babies were born, but now she was all smiles.

The minister of health has visited the hospital to praise the efforts of the medics and meet the family – and the women’s affairs minister has promised to give Mrs Martin a job to help the family.

Presentation of the Separated Twins

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.

“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.

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