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‘We’re happy that we are no longer a laughing stock’

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Edeh and Maria with the twins

Mr. Michael Edeh and Mrs. Maria Martins, from Otukpo Council of Benue State, but residing in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, were understandably on top of the world when they spoke exclusively to The Guardian’s NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE in Abuja on the successful separation of their conjoined twins late last year.

For Mrs. Maria Martins, her joy was full after the successful separation of her conjoined twins at the National Hospital in Abuja and their subsequent discharge from the hospital late last year.

The Microbiologist recalled that during the pregnancy, she went for scan and it showed that she was carrying twins, but she did not know they were conjoined.

Naturally, the pregnancy was not very easy, as her stomach was very big and each time she laid down, it was difficult for her to get up, because the weight of the babies was in one position and they were not free to kick. She found it difficult to lift herself without assistance.

Although it was a planned surgery, as she had her first baby through Caesarean Section (CS), the doctors did not know that the babies were joined. On the day of delivery, as normal CS was going on at a time, it appeared as if the medical personnel were confused, as they tried to bring out the babies one after the other, but couldn’t and were asking themselves what the problem was.

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She was awake and observing what was going on and at a time, she heard them say “tear, tear.” The doctors had to open her very wide to see what the issue was and in the process of pulling to bring the babies out, they (babies) were wounded around their navels and their intestines came out.

“They did not want to show me my babies, as I was very weak. But I insisted that they show me the babies, because when they eventually brought out the babies, it was only the cry of one that I heard, I was afraid because I have heard how babies are swapped at birth.

“So, they brought them to me and seeing their condition, I asked the medical team why they were joined, because I don’t know much about conjoined twins. They told me that it was a minor issue, that they would resolve it quickly, and I said it was alright, thinking it is something they would do immediately, and they moved me to the ward to receive my own treatment,” she reminisced.

On that very day, they called her husband and when he arrived, they explained the situation to him and listed some hospitals where the case could be handled, but he told them it was not a decision he could take at that spot and appealed to them to give him little time.

So, he went back home and came back the next day, being August 14, 2018, as she was delivered of the babies on August 13. He told them to refer the babies to the National Hospital, Abuja.

Maria told one of the nurses to assist her, that she wanted to go and see the babies in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where they were kept, and on getting there, she laid hands on them and told them they are the handmade of the Lord and prayed to God to do to them according to His will. She joined them five days later at the National Hospital.

Asked if she at any point nursed any fear over their surviving the separation procedures, she answered: “I did not nurse an iota of fear at all, God gave me courage, because from my dreams before I was delivered of the babies, God had shown me victory all over, even when I did not know the situation.

“So, when I saw their condition, I knew that God will see them through and I thank God that He gave more wisdom to the doctors at the National Hospital to carry out the surgery successfully and to bring out the children alive, hale and hearty. I am grateful to them and to God.

“I am grateful to the hospital management for their kind gesture, especially the CMD (Chief medical Director), Dr. Jaf Momoh, and the team of doctors, led by Prof. Ameh and all the medical personnel that worked together to separate our twins and make us laugh today.”

On how much they were charged for the operation, she said: “Not even a dime. They did not charge me anything, because when we got there, they discovered that we could not afford anything for the treatment and they assured us that they would do all they can to give Goodness and Mercy a chance to live. And that was exactly what they did.

“So, all the 16 months we spent here, including the surgery, were done free of charge.”

were the twins named Goodness and Mercy? “It was as a result of the difficulties and confusion encountered at the theatre when the doctors were trying to bring them out from my womb. Where the procedure was going on, I was on oxygen, but I had a certain feeling and had to pull out the oxygen and began to pray, telling God that the work was above man, that He should manifest Himself and possess all the medical personnel in the theatre, and it came to pass.

“When it was time to name the children, because they are females, my mind went to Psalm 23:6 that says, “Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” So, I told them that I wanted to name the babies Goodness and Mercy and that was what happened.”

On how she feels seeing the children living their separate lives today, Maria said: “I feel so happy, in fact, God has done so much for us. I don’t know why God loves my family and I so much.

“I am so happy that we are no longer a laughing stock, but rather, the world is celebrating with me and my family. Initially, people were making some silly comments and sometimes I would look at my children and cry. My children were suffering, dragging themselves, stuck together.

“People said it was because of my sin, that it was because of the sin of the parents that God decided to punish us. Some said maybe we had a sickness that resulted to our children’s condition. I heard a lot of things, but I thank God that today, people are celebrating with my family.”

Maria is happy and grateful to government for the promise to give her a job, saying: “I have gone to see the Minister of Women Affairs and because we were discharged recently from the hospital, she doesn’t want to be far from the children, so she promised to empower me with a business I would be doing and looking after the children, pending when my children are fit, then they would implement the job offer.”

Asked what other help she would need, she sighed and said: “My family actually cannot really afford much, although my husband is trying. He is struggling a lot as a man to make sure that he provides for his family, but it is not really enough. If I were to choose, I wouldn’t have bargained for twins, because it is not easy for me to take care of a single child, let alone twins, and with their conditions especially, they need continuous medical check up, good nutrition, clean environment and so many other good things.

“I cannot afford it. I live in a one-room apartment with my husband, our first daughter, my husband’s siblings, and mother. My husband is a father to his siblings, because their parents are late and they are all with us. If you add Goodness and Mercy, we are now 10 in a one-room apartment. It is a big challenge, but what can we do?

“We give God the glory and plead with Nigerians and the federal government to assist us to give Goodness and Mercy a better life, so that they can grow to become fulfilled women.”

For her husband, Mr. Michael Edeh Martins, he observed during her pregnancy that her stomach was very large, compared to her previous pregnancy.

Upon becoming pregnant, she registered for antenatal at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Keffi, Nasarawa State. He explained that as the pregnancy progressed, a scan showed that she was carrying twins, but the scan did not show that the babies were joined, adding: “My wife said the doctor told her the twins are identical, that they were feeding from one unbiblical cord and facing each other. We have twins in my family and also in my wife’s family and when I was younger, I always prayed to have twin.”

Michael was not around when his wife was taken to the theatre for CS, but when the doctors and nurses continued calling him, he became worried and asked them what was going on, but they said nothing.

He recounted: “I decided to go with my brother, so that should anything be wrong, he could cheer me up and I will be strong. When I got to the hospital, they asked me to sit down, so that someone will come and attend to me. I sat down and began to imagine what could be the matter.

“When they called me, they congratulated me, telling me that my wife had been successfully delivered of twins and along the line, they showed me a picture and said my twins were alright, but conjoined and I was shocked.

“That was my first time of hearing the word conjoined. I could not utter a word, so they started counseling me, telling me what to do. But when the counseling became too much, I was no longer interested and I asked them what next we could do and they told me that the case was not something that would be done immediately.

“They told me two hospitals that could handle the case- the National Hospital and St. Jude Hospital in Jos, Plateau State. I then asked whether they had an idea of the amount it may cost to perform such a surgery and they said they didn’t know.

“I then asked them to give me time to consult my people and after consultation, I went back to the FMC, Keffi and told them to refer us to the National Hospital, since it is closer. The FMC then gave us an ambulance with a nurse and we moved down to the National Hospital.”

He continued: “When we arrived at the National Hospital, we were well received and after all necessary documentations, the next day, the experts came around and the leader of the medical team, Prof. Ameh, looked at the X-ray that had been done and said there was no problem, that they could do the work.

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“The nurses had to take care of the children, feed monitor and stabilised them until they were fit for the surgery to be carried out on them. It wasn’t easy, but I had confidence that everything will come out fine.

“My Auntie, an elderly woman that was staying with us at the hospital, at a time became worried and was saying that she hoped she won’t go back empty-handed. In the course of the whole thing, just a week to the surgery, she developed stroke and I had to take her to another hospital.

“In November last year, the surgery was performed and my babies were separated. No money was collected from us, nothing at all. We spent one year and four months at the National Hospital.”

He said when the babies were successfully separated, he felt happy, but told himself that it is when he sees the playing that his joy would be complete and his mind would calm down, adding: “Even some adults don’t make it after surgery, but I thank God for what He has done. Right now, we are happy together.

“On the Christmas day, I carried them and we moved round the hospital, so I am very happy. The medical personnel and the management of the hospital were so nice to us and I pray God to bless them.”

Michael, who is into panting, said the help he needs from the public is patronage, just as he looks forward to a bigger accommodation o make life a bit more comfortable for the babies.

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