Ibrahim Ndiaye, the father of 3-year-old conjoined twins from Senegal, faces a heartbreaking choice. He wants to separate his attached daughters Marieme and Ndeye at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, but it is already established that one of the girls is unlikely to survive the operation. And if they’re not helped, chances are they will both die in the long run.
The single father moved from Senegal to Cardiff in England when the twins were seven months old. The mother went with her but is now back in Dakar: the capital of Senegal. The BBC made a documentary about 50-year-old Ibrahim Ndiaye, who continues to believe that the girls’ lives can somehow be saved.
The authoritative hospital in London has not yet made a decision about whether the complicated procedure will actually be done. Specialists there face several dilemmas that are both medical and ethical. There is a good chance that one of the now relatively healthy children will die as a result of the operation. The management of the hospital further wonders whether the twins are perhaps better off and will be happier if they stay together.
Marieme and Ndeye have separate brains, hearts, and lungs, but share a liver, bladder, digestive organs and together have three kidneys. The heart of Marieme is extremely weak, according to the doctors, so her life expectancy is low. But if she dies before the operation, her sister Ndeye will probably also die.
In the documentary, which will be broadcast tomorrow night at the BBC, the father states that in this situation he wants to follow his heart, not his mind. “Every decision is very heavy, will cause a lot of commotion and has many consequences. Chances are that if I give permission for the operation, I will lose one of my girls. And then I still have no guarantee that the surviving daughter will make it. And I can lose both of them, with or without surgery. And I do not want that.”
Ibrahima Ndiaye has put his hope in the experts at the Great Ormond Street Hospital. According to the BBC, the man tried to have his children help in hospitals in Belgium, Germany, Zimbabwe, Norway, Sweden, and America. He eventually left for the UK, because doctors in the other countries mentioned really did not dare to operate.
The medical staff of the London hospital tries to assist the father in his very difficult decision. It is already clear that the management cannot give any guarantee. Specialist Joe Brierley, the member of the ethics committee of the Great Ormond Street hospital, is clear about it.
“We can do incredible things here. A lot more than 20 or 30 years ago. But that doesn’t mean we should do everything. If Marieme goes backward, Ndeye will follow. That process cannot be stopped or changed. We can’t save Ndeye’s life if her sister is dying.” He and the father regard the sisters as ‘equals’. “That makes a decision if it has to be made, even more difficult,” it sounds. The almost distraught father agrees.
It was recently announced that a team of one hundred specialists at the Great Ormond Street Hospital has successfully separated a conjoined girl twin. Safa and Marwa were born in Pakistan two and a half years ago. They sat together with their heads together. According to the hospital, which announced the successful operation on Facebook at the beginning of July, the girls were recently released from the hospital after a recovery period of a few months and are allowed to continue their rehabilitation with their mother, grandfather and grandmother in London under the watchful eye of physiotherapists. The Pakistani father of the two died when the mother was pregnant with the twins.
The final operations together lasted 50 hours and were done by four teams of at least 25 specialists. The extremely expensive interventions were paid for by an anonymous sponsor and were not without risk. Especially since the girls shared many important veins. If something had gone wrong during the operation, one of the two could have bled to death. That happened almost at the end of last year, which almost caused Marwa to collapse. To prevent this, she got an important vein, but that again had an adverse effect on Safa, who suffered a brain hemorrhage 12 hours later due to a lack of blood.