Excitement was the prevalent mood at the Mercy James Centre of Paediatric Surgery and Intensive Care at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre where surgeons for the first time successfully separated conjoined twins.
The twins, boys aged four and a half months, were referred to the facility from Balaka District Hospital in early March this year, but could not undergo the operation because they were too young at the time, according to QECH officials.
On Wednesday, paediatric surgeon Eric Borgstein led a team in a historic operation at the new unit financed by American pop star Madonna and named after one of her Malawian adopted children, Mercy James.
Prior to the operation, QECH tweeted asking the nation to pray for a successful surgery on the twins.
Yesterday, a delighted Borgstein confirmed the success of the operation, but could not give more details. He referred the matter to QECH management.
In an interview, QECH administrator Themba Mhango was over the moon at the development.
He said the twins were born attached on the stomach. He described the surgery as a milestone the country should be proud of.
Said Mhango: “This is one of the milestones we should be proud of as a country. We are looking forward to taking care of more children at the facility.”
But he concealed the identity of the twins and Borgstein’s team member.
Mhango said: “They were referred here from Balaka in March, but the operation was postponed because the twins were too young for surgery until they reached the age of four months and two weeks. We are still monitoring their condition.”
Efforts to speak to the parents of the twins at the unit were also futile, but some guardians said they could not believe that the twins have been successfully separated.
Maria Kawonga, whose two-year son is admitted to the facility, could not hide her excitement over the successful operation.
She said: “Now I have all the reasons to believe that my child will be healed. Their [twins] condition was something else. The whole of yesterday [Wednesday] their mother did not take any food. She asked us to join her in prayers and we thank God that He has answered the prayer.”
Reacting to the development, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe commended the medical team for the successful separation of co-joined twins.
“This is good news and we have received it with excitement. This shows that much as we have some heath challenges, we should have confidence with our health workers that we are able to do certain things which previously could only be done outside the country,” he said.
Jobe said this was the first time for the country to separate the conjoined twins.
Mercy James Paediatric Centre was officially opened on July 11 last year.
Since its inception, the unit has handled 1 529 theatre cases, 2 086 outpatient department (OPD) patients, 1 403 admissions and 258 intensive care unit patients.n