Safa and Marwa are twin girls who were born with their skulls fused together. The girls are what is known as craniopagus twins, the vast majority of whom do not survive beyond childhood.
£1 million was needed to cover the girl’s medical costs which was generously donated by Pakistani businessman Murtaza Lakhani. The twins underwent three major operations in February 2019 at the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London. After over 50 hours in the surgeon’s room, the girls were successfully separated. Now, more than a year since the surgery, the girls have returned home to Pakistan to their mother.
Owase Jeelani, who was lead surgeon, said he and his team of 100 people were “very pleased” for the family. He also told the BBC that he still feels some apprehension about the overall outcome. Jeelani was faced with a near-impossible decision to make during surgery. The twins had a network of shared blood vessels which nourished both their brains, and only one twin could receive some of the key blood vessels. Marwa, who was the weaker twin, was given those blood vessels. This led Safa to have a stroke, which has left her with permanent damage to her brain that may never allow her to walk.
“It’s a decision that I made as a surgeon,” said Jeelani, who is a highly experienced neurosurgeon. “It’s one that we made as a team. It’s a decision we have to live with.”
Even though it’s not a perfectly happy ending, Safa and Marwa are now back at home where her parents and siblings can take care of them.
As for Owase Jeelani, he has gone on to perform more surgeries to separate craniopagus twins. In January 2020, the same surgical team successfully separated twin boys from Turkey who were joined at the head. The process for those twins was much faster than with Safa and Marwa, and they were returned home to Turkey before their second birthday where they are expected to make a rapid recovery.