Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
A 22-YEAR-OLD Beitbridge woman has become the sixth in independent Zimbabwe to give birth to Siamese or conjoined twins.
Miss Antonette Moyo gave birth to the girls at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo on December 1 after she was referred from Beitbridge District Hospital.
Miss Moyo is yet to name the twins who share a chest and a liver but preliminary observations show they have individual hearts and pairs of lungs as well as kidneys.
Of the documented cases of conjoined twins since independence, only one was referred outside the country while in two instances the babies died before surgery and the other two pairs were separated.
Siamese twins result from either fission, in which the fertilised egg splits partially or fusion in which a fertilised egg completely separates but stem cells search for similar cells on the other embryo and fuse the twins.
Medical experts say this happens because identical twins are a result of one fertilized egg and it is effectively one person divided into two but when there are delays in the separation of the embryo, the babies become conjoined.
If conjoined twins undergo certain treatments early, they can be separated easily if there are no shared major organs.
The overall survival rate of conjoined twins is somewhere between five percent and 25 percent and for some reason, experts say female siblings seem to have a better shot at survival than their male counterparts. Although more male twins conjoin in the womb than female twins, females are three times as likely as males to be born alive.
Zimbabwe last conducted a successful separation of two-month-old Murewa twin boys who shared a liver in 2014.
The historic medical breakthrough was recorded after an eight-hour procedure at Harare Children’s Hospital by a team of 50 medical personnel.
Chronicle caught up with Miss Moyo at Mpilo Central Hospital yesterday where her twin girls are being monitored in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
She said although she was free to share her story, she did not want the pictures of her babies to be shared before they are separated.
The hopeful mother who has an older child aged three, said she only got to know about the conjoined twin possibility at seven months when she travelled back from South Africa.
She said she had done a couple of antenatal care visits to the clinic while she was in Johannesburg with her husband although she never went for a scan.
“I come from a village called Masungane in Beitbridge and when South Africa relaxed some of the lockdown conditions, I decided to come home and register the pregnancy locally. I travelled in October and was already seven months pregnant and when I went for the first scan, I was told that my babies were conjoined,” said Ms Moyo.
“I therefore could not deliver at Beitbridge and was referred to Mpilo where I delivered via a Caesarean section on December 1,” she said.
Miss Moyo said the twins were born healthy and they are feeding well. She said her family has been supportive and she wishes to see the day her babies will become normal as she trusts the doctors will be able to separate the girls soon.
“I do have some challenges here and there and would do with some form of help in terms of baby clothes and money.
That’s the least of my worries though, as I just want to see them separated and living normally,” said Ms Moyo.
Mpilo acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the babies were undergoing assessment to ascertain whether they are sharing a major organ and they will be referred to Harare for further treatment.
He said the success of the operation would be based on the outcome of the tests.
“We are doing tests to determine which organs they are sharing which will guide us on the way forward.
“They will be referred to Harare for treatment where there are paediatric surgeons and specialists and we continue to hope for the best,” said Prof Ngwenya.
He said if results show that the twins share many major organs, they will be left to grow like that as trying to separate them may lead to loss of life. — @thamamoe.