BALTIMORE – Doctors said a pair of formerly conjoined twins were doing well Tuesday, weeks after the 6-month-old girls were successfully separated.
Loice and Christine Onziga, from Leiko in northern Uganda, were joined from the breast bone to the navel. A team of 35 surgeons spent 12 hours separating them on April 19 at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children.
"They like to coo to each other," said Cindy Howard, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The girls shared a diaphragm, sternum, chest wall and abdominal wall. Their hearts were connected by a large blood vessel doctors called "the tube of life."
The girls were born Oct. 28 to Margaret Onziga, 29, and her husband, Gordon, 28, who farms six acres, raising potatoes, peanuts and other crops. The twins were delivered by Caesarean section.
The family was referred to a hospital in Kampala, where a team of pediatric specialists, including Howard, evaluated the twins. Howard was in Uganda on an exchange program.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggested bringing the girls to Baltimore. The hospital agreed to pay all medical costs, an amount officials declined to disclose.
The family had to scrimp to pay for the trip, which cost nearly $3,000. Gordon Onziga sold his bicycle, which he used to take crops to market. The family received donations from charities and a discounted airfare.
When surgeons got to the heart, they clamped the connecting vein to see if blood pressure and oxygen levels would remain steady before clipping it. The team used synthetic material to reconstruct part of the diaphragm, chest and abdominal walls.
"Today, my wife and I are very happy parents to see both our daughters alive and separate," Onziga said.
Conjoined twins occur roughly once in every 200,000 live births in the United States. Of those who survive, only a small number have organs that can be separated.