Twins seem to be more common in the last decade than they previously were but conjoined twins are still quite a rarity.
Occurring in roughly one out of every 200,000 live births, conjoined twins were once thought of as a circus act after Chang and Eng Bunker from Siam (now Thailand) traveled the world with P.T. Barnum, thus sparking the term “Siamese twins” for the condition.
If Chang and Eng were alive in today’s world, doctors believe they would easily be able to be separated, but medical advancements were not the same in the late 1880’s, so the twins were forced to live attached at the torso.
Despite these advancements, the surgery required to separate conjoined twins is still very risky, for all intents and purposes.
In the past six months, there have been two successful surgeries that have garnered the world’s attention.
Erin and Abby Delaney from North Carolina were joined at the head but underwent an 11-hour procedure back in June that successfully separated them.
Another set of conjoined twins, this time from India, have also been separated after an 18-hour surgery last week.
Like Erin and Abby, Jaga and Kalia were born joined at the head – a condition known as craniopagus.
Conjoined twins are rare, but craniopagus twins are even rarer, occurring in one in three million births, with half of the newborns passing away within 24 hours.
The twins underwent their preliminary procedure in August, which allowed doctors to create a venous bypass that separated the shared veins that returns blood to the heart from the brain.
Last week, the next phase was ready: the actual separation of the 28-month twins.
After an 18-hour-long surgery that included 30 specialists, Jaga and Kalia were successfully separated but neither was out of the woods.
Both boys were being monitored around the clock and were on continuous blood transfusion.
The family received positive news four days after the procedure when Jaga opened his eyes and began responding to simple commands and moving his limbs. He is still on a ventilator and is receiving dialysis daily for kidney problems.
Kalia is still unconscious and has suffered several seizures but doctors at the state-run hospital in New Dehli are optimistic he will continue to improve.
“Both the twins are stable. Their statistics are better, and the fever has gone down in one of the babies. In the other, who was being given dialysis, the kidney function is improving,” a doctor who requested anonymity said.