The parents of twin girls conjoined at the top of their heads were told they were expecting one baby with a big head. Twenty-nine-year-old Taslima Khatun Uno and her 28-year-old husband, Mohammad Rafiqur Islam, were shocked when they became parents to two little girls.

Taslima with her conjoined twins Rabia and Rukia. SUN Photos

The couple are now facing an anxious wait to see if surgeons can separate their daughters. Rabia and Rukia were born with the tops of their heads fused together. And now doctors are trying to find out if the girls share a brain and blood vessels — to determine if an operation is possible.

Rabia and Rukia, who turned one on July 16 this year, are admitted at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, where medical experts are assessing their condition. The couple are now facing an anxious wait to see if surgeons can separate their daughters.

Dr. Mohammad Ruhul Amin, chairman of paediatric surgery at the hospital, said: “Theirs is an extremely rare case of conjoined twins. They are in good health and growing at a normal pace. “We are conducting tests, checking how they are evolving.

We need to determine if the girls share the same skull, brain and blood vessels. It would be extremely difficult to operate on them. “The babies’ heads are joined side by side. In other kids, we can see their heads are joined front to back, which creates movement problems.

“As their heads are joined side by side, it makes physical movement, such as bending the neck, easier.” Taslima had enjoyed a healthy pregnancy, continuing to teach in the local school and look after the couples’ seven-year-old daughter Rafia.

Rabia and Rukia

But after several scans, Taslima and her husband were told in the eighth month that she was carrying only one child but the foetus had an enlarged head.

“The doctors thought this was because of water on the brain. I was given medicine to take for one month to try and reduce the size,” she said.

Even as she went into labour, doctors hadn’t spotted that she was carrying conjoined twins. And it took Taslima a day to learn her newborn babies’ condition.

Taslima said: “I went into labour at night and delivered them in the early morning by surgery. “For a day, I did not see them as I was unconscious due to anaesthesia; but when I saw them I could not believe my eyes.

“My husband was unwell and had not seen them either. I did not have the courage to tell the condition of our children. “It was very painful for me as, instead of being happy about my children, I was worried if they will survive.”

The parents had taken them to advanced hospitals in Dhaka within five days of their birth, but were told the girls were doing fine and that they would need to wait for them to grow, and monitor whether they were healthy enough to undergo such major surgery.

A week after they celebrated their first birthday, their parents brought them to hospital. But even as they have hopes pinned on the doctors, the experts are in no hurry to operate on the children.

Professor Amin says the team will wait up to two years before making a final decision on separating Rabia and Rukia.

“We are in no hurry to operate on them, as the success rate of such surgeries are very low. This is not like any other surgery,” he said.

“It is a difficult and complicated operation and will be a team effort. Also, we have no previous experience in such cases; so, we want to do thorough examination and discuss with experts to take a medical decision. “If the need to bring experts from other countries arise, we will do that to save them.”

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