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Nigerian doctors separate conjoined twins in U.S.

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OLUYINKA

NIGERIANS have once again lifted the nation’s image abroad, as three United States (U.S.)-based Nigerian medical doctors were among a team that successfully separated conjoined twins in a surgery that is now making waves among American media and the global medical world.

   The recent 26-hour long historic surgery on the 10-month-old conjoined twins in a Houston hospital in Texas had one of the top surgeons in the team as Prof. Oluyinka Olutoye, and two other Nigerian female doctors.

   The twins, Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata, were successfully separated on February 17 and 18. Speaking with The Guardian over the weekend, Olutoye, who is the Texas Children Hospital’s pediatric surgeon, said there were 12 surgeons, four anesthesiologists and eight nurses in the team.

   One of the anesthesiologists is Olutoye’s wife, Dr. Toyin, while the third Nigerian is Dr. Mrs. Oluyemisi Adeyemi-Fowode, a pediatric gynecology fellow in the hospital.

   The Nigerian community is now sharing in the praise and recognition that the medical feat has brought about, while the medical practitioners involved are now being celebrated in the U.S. media and society, as most of America’s major TV stations and top newspapers have reported the feat. 

   Reacting to the news, the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), which represents about 1000 Nigerian churches in the U.S., said “the active inclusion of three distinguished Nigerian doctors in the history-making conjoined twins separation is another showcase of how outstanding Nigerians are impacting the American community positively.”

   Olutoye is also the Co-Director of the Texas Children’s Fetal Centre and Co-Programme Director of Perinatal Surgery Fellowship Programme of the Baylor College of Medicine. He came to the U.S. in 1989 to pursue his post-doctoral studies before deciding to stay back.

   Local U.S. media quoted the leader of the medical team, himself a pediatric surgeon and co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center, Dr Darrell Cass, as saying: “This surgery was not without its challenges with the girls sharing several organs systems.” 

   While the surgery lasted, the Nigerian doctors and their colleagues worked on Knatalye for about 23 hours and Adeline for 26, but Olutoye said they took breaks at different intervals.

   The University of Ife graduate disclosed that the twins were actually 10 months old and had to be previously delivered as premature babies, and that in anticipation of the separation surgery, tissue expanders were used to help prepare their skins.

   “It is a blessing to be part of a team that can help improve the lives of these two children. Now, they have the potential to live a happy, normal life,” he said.

Twins shared common diaphragm, pelvis, lungs, intestines, heart lining

Olutoye explained that the Siamese twins, born in April 2014 to Elysse Mata and her husband, John, were conjoined at the chest almost face-to-face, linked at the abdomen and sharing a common liver. 

   They had four kidneys going into two bladders and also shared major organs like diaphragm, pelvis, lungs intestines and lining of the heart, he added, but noted that graciously, the twins had separate hearts. 

  According to him, in many cases of such conjoined twins, separating them could be technically impossible, depending on where and how they are joined. Olutoye said that conjoined twins rarely occur, maybe one in 100,000 to 500,000 cases.

   The twins are now recovering, he said, and their full recovery is anticipated even if that takes a little while.



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