This headline in today's New York Times suddenly had me wondering if the paper had turned into the Weekly World News for a moment. What a nightmare for this poor girl: I've seen other cases with the remains of a "parasitic twin," but this more complex than anything I've ever heard of before, and the Hindu religious/cultural twist is a new one, too....
Girl With 8 Limbs Undergoes Surgery
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 6, 2007
BANGALORE, India (AP) -- Doctors began operating Tuesday on a 2-year-old girl born with four arms and four legs in an extensive surgery that they hope will leave the girl with a normal body, a hospital official said.
The girl is joined to a ''parasitic twin'' that stopped developing in the mother's womb. The surviving fetus absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.
The girl, Lakshmi, is named after the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth, and some in her village in the northern state of Bihar revere her as a goddess.
''Everybody considers her a goddess at our village,'' said her father, Shambhu, who goes by one name. ''All this expenditure has happened to make her normal. So far, everything is fine.''
Others sought to make money from Lakshmi. Her parents kept her in hiding after a circus apparently tried to buy the girl, they said.
The complications for Lakshmi's surgery are myriad: The two spines are merged, she has four kidneys, entangled nerves, two stomach cavities and two chest cavities. She cannot stand up or walk.
''It's a big team effort of a lot of skilled surgeons who will be putting their heart and soul into solving the problem of Laxmi,'' said Dr. Sharan Patil, the lead surgeon in the operation. ''It's going to take many, many hours on a continuous basis to operate on the baby. So, these issues definitely make it complex.''
Patil put the risk of losing Lakshmi between 20 and 25 percent.
Doctors at Sparsh Hospital in Bangalore, where Lakshmi is undergoing surgery, said she is popular among the medical staff and other patients.
''She's a very cute girl,'' Dr. Patil Mamatha said. ''She's very playful and gets along well with others.''
The hospital's foundation is paying for the operation because the girl's family could not afford the medical bills, Mamatha said. A team of 30 doctors was participating in the surgery.