BANGALORE, India – A 2-year-old girl who was born with four arms and four legs showed the first signs of movement Thursday following a marathon operation to remove the extra limbs, doctors said.
The girl, Lakshmi, was being kept sedated in the intensive care unit at a hospital in the southern Indian city of Bangalore during what doctors said was a critical 72-hour period following the operation.
"Lakshmi has moved her toes and hands for the first time and opened her eyes briefly," Dr. Sharan Patil, the head surgeon, told reporters.
"She is progressing in the right direction," he said.
Patil said doctors were slowly reducing the amount of sedatives, but she was still breathing on a respirator.
Doctors were still cautious, however.
"She is a 2-year-old girl who has undergone massive surgery, we have to watch and wait," said Dr. Mamatha Patil, a Sparsh Hospital spokeswoman.
Lakshmi, who has been revered by some in her village as a reincarnation of the four-armed Hindu goddess she was named for, was born joined at the pelvis to a "parasitic twin" that stopped developing in her mother's womb. The surviving fetus absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.
On Wednesday, a team of more than 30 surgeons conducted the operation — which lasted more than 24 hours — removing the extra limbs, transplanting a kidney from the twin and reconstructing her pelvic area in the hope she would be able to lead a normal life.
Lakshmi will need further treatments and possible surgery for clubbed feet before she will be able to walk, Sharan Patil said.
Her father, Shambhu, who only goes by one name, had told reporters that her family had been worried for her future before the operation and he was looking forward to seeing her with "a normal body."
Lakshmi, who has been revered by some in her village as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess she was named for, was born joined at the pelvis to a "parasitic twin" that stopped developing in her mother's womb. The surviving fetus absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.
"This is a very rare occurrence," said Dr. Doug Miniati a pediatric surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the surgery. Miniati said the surgery was extremely complicated but her chances of survival were greater because she was not joined at the heart or brain.
"This girl can now lead as good a life as anyone else," Dr. Sharan Patil said from a hospital in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
In addition to removing the extra limbs, the operation included transplanting a good kidney into Lakshmi from the twin. The team also used tissue from the twin to help rebuild the pelvic area, one of the most complicated parts of the surgery, Patil said.
"Beyond our expectations, the reconstruction worked wonderfully well," Patil said. "We were able to bring the pelvic bones together successfully, which takes away the need for another procedure," he said.
However, she will have to have further treatments and possible surgery for clubbed feet before she would be able to walk, he said.
Lakshmi's parents told reporters they were very relieved.
"It will be great to see our daughter have a normal body," her father Shambhu, who only goes by one name, told reporters. "We were worried for her future."
Children born with deformities in deeply traditional rural parts of India such as the remote village in the northern state of Bihar that Lakshmi hails from are often viewed as reincarnated gods. The young girl is no different — she is named after the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth.
Others sought to make money from Lakshmi. Her parents kept her in hiding after a circus apparently tried to buy the girl, they said.
Her mother, who is currently pregnant with a healthy fetus, was "overwhelmed," Patil said.
Doctors at Sparsh Hospital in Bangalore said they were performing the surgery, which they estimated cost $625,000, for free because the girl's family could not afford the medical bills.
"We are very grateful to all the doctors for seeing our plight and deciding to help us," Shambhu said.