Doctors at the Vatican’s pediatric hospital said Tuesday they have successfully separated conjoined twins whose skulls were fused back-to-back, an exceedingly rare surgery for an equally rare congenital defect.
The twins, Ervina and Prefina Bangalo, were born June 29, 2018 in Mbaiki, Central African Republic with their heads attached and sharing critical blood vessels around their brains. Such cases of conjoined twins occur once in every 2 million births or so.
The Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, which is Vatican-owned but operates within the Italian public health system, brought the twins and their mother to Italy soon after their birth. The hospital said the toddlers are recovering well a month after their third and definitive separation surgery on June 5.
Video released by the hospital showed the girls waving along to music from their beds, clapping and holding markers, as well as celebrating their second birthday in their mother’s arms as hospital staff sang “Happy Birthday” to them in Italian.
The key goal of the surgery was “to obtain a separation with the girls in perfect condition. So the objective we gave ourselves was very ambitious, and we did everything to reach it,” Dr. Carlo Marras, chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Bambino Gesu, said.
Marras led the team that worked for nearly two years planning and executing the separation.
At a press conference to announce the outcome of the sisters’ surgery, Marras said the prognosis was “these girls can have a normal life” after a phase of rehabilitation.