Saturday, November 10, 2007

Eight-limbed girl revered as deity has marathon surgery

By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
Published: 07 November 2007
Indian surgeons were performing a marathon operation last night on a two-year-old girl who was born with four arms and four legs.

The girl, called Lakshmi after the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth, is revered as a deity by some in her impoverished village. But doctors say Lakshmi is connected at the pelvis to a headless "parasitic twin" who stopped developing in her mother's womb while she absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts. The rare condition is called isciopagus and it occurs in between one in 50,000 to one in 200,000 births.

"Everybody considers her a goddess at our village," her father, Shambhu, who has only one name, told the Associated Press. "All this expenditure has happened to make her normal. So far, everything is fine."

The operation to separate Lakshmi is complicated and high-risk and involves a team of least 30 medics. The surgeons at Bangalore's Sparsh Hospital have to separate two spines and entangled nerves. At present, Lakshmi has four kidneys, two stomachs and two chest cavities and she is unable to stand or walk. Doctors say there is about a 25 per cent chance she could die during the operation.

Surgeons started the operation, which was expected to last up to 40 hours, at 7am yesterday and reported good progress. They said the little girl was stable and although they had encountered "some surprises" in the initial stages of the operation, those had been taken care of.

Last night, they were preparing to begin actually separating the little girl from the "twin". "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 Lakshmi," said Dr Sharan Patil, the lead surgeon. "It's going to take many, many hours on a continuous basis to operate."

The hospital's foundation is paying for the operation because the girl's family could not afford it, said a spokesman. Indeed, her parents struggled to even get her to the point where she could go to the hospital

Lakshmi is from the village of Arhariya in Bihar, one of India's poorest states. Her parents said they had been offered money to sell her. "We took her to a hospital in Delhi but circus owners heard about her, wanted to turn her into a freak show and offered us money," her father told an Indian newspaper.

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