Bhumchu Zangmo has only one wish for her toddler daughters – that they can grow up and live ‘normal’ lives.
It’s something she has wanted ever since her beautiful conjoined twins, Nima and Dawa Pelden, were born connected at the chest and stomach, surprising doctors at the small hospital near their isolated village in Bhutan, in the Himalayas.
And now a team of doctors from Melbourne are getting ready to give Bhumchu and her husband Sonam the medical miracle they’ve been praying for since their daughters’ birth 14 months ago.
An unbreakable bond
Fourteen months ago, Nima and Dawa surprised their parents and doctors when they were born conjoined at the lower chest and tummy.
Although the girls have separate hearts and lungs, they share a bowel and liver. They also face each other, making it hard to move and causing them daily frustration. They can’t sit up. They don’t like to stand. And they barely sleep, because one is always waking the other up.
Life hasn’t been easy for the girls or their mother, Bhumchu Zangmo, who knows that separating the girls is the only way they will survive.
“I have been praying every day, and these days I am praying to come back safely.
“I am extremely happy that help has finally come,” Bhumchu told the Herald Sun through an interpreter. “When I first saw them like that, I thought surgery may not be possible. I feared they would remain like that their whole life … I was scared whether they would live or die.”
“I am scared about the outcome of the surgery, but I believe that in a foreign country they will do a good job, and I hope and believe that everything will be fine.”
Mum’s desperate pleas answered by Aussie doctors
Bhumchu had been desperately searching for a way to help her daughters when the Children First Foundation and the Royal Children’s Hospital teamed up to offer Bhumchu a solution that she had been praying for.
After a year long endeavour to try and get the girls into Australia, the twins finally arrive in Melbourne today on a mercy flight from Bhutan. They will have surgery at the RCH in the coming weeks.
The complex surgery will require a team of six surgeons and dozens of specialist nurses and anaesthetists. But RCH head of paediatric surgery Mr Joe Crameri is confident his team will be successful in the operating room.
“I think we can offer them separation and the ability to go home and live a normal life,” Mr Crameri says.
“If we can get them separated and give mum and dad two kids to look after, then that is fantastic.”
Second conjoined twin separation for Melbourne surgeons
This isn’t the first time the Royal Children’s Hospital has stepped in to help conjoined twins. Nine years ago, the RCH made headlines around the world for separating conjoined Bangledashi twins Trishna and Krishna.
“We will have some of the same surgeons, the anaesthetists, the theatre staff, we will have an ICU team back with us again,” explains CFF chief executive officer, Elizabeth Lodge.
“We are very confident these little girls will be separated successfully and soon be able to crawl, roll, jump and run as two little independents.”
How we can all help
At this stage, the Children’s First Foundation are taking care of the estimated $300,000 expenses for the surgery and ongoing care.
However, Premier Daniel Andrews says the government will speak to the Royal Children’s Hospital about whether it can “step in and make a contribution on behalf of all Victorians”.
The CFF is also hoping Australians will offer financial support in any way they can. Here’s how you can help Nima and Dawa:
- Donate by phone 1800 99 22 99
- Text TWINs to 0437 371 371 to make an online donation
- Visit childrenfirstfoundation.org.au/donate and select Twins18 as the campaign name
- Donate by electronic transfer via your online banking system to the account details below.
- Bank: Bendigo Bank
- Name: Children First Foundation (CFF Gift Account)
- BSB: 633-000
- Account number: 163045552
- Reference: Enter your full name and “twins”
- For a tax receipt, email [email protected] with the transaction details.
To follow Nima and Dawa’s story, head to the Children’s First Foundation website. And you can see more amazing pictures of their journey at the Herald Sun.
Want to know what’s in store for the girls? Take another look inside the incredible operation to separate conjoined twins Hope and Anna Richards, who were also born joined at the chest.