Former conjoined twins to be discharged from hospital

Conjoined twins Uwenzile and Uyihlelile Shilongonyane were successfully separated during a six-hour operation at Netcare Unitas Hospital in Centurion. (Supplied)
Conjoined twins Uwenzile and Uyihlelile Shilongonyane were successfully separated during a six-hour operation at Netcare Unitas Hospital in Centurion. (Supplied)

Pretoria – A pair of conjoined twins separated after a six-hour-long operation in a Pretoria hospital in January, is expected to be discharged on Tuesday.

The girls, Uwenzile and Uyihlelile Shilongonyane from Swaziland, were separated on January 21, three weeks after their premature birth.

They were joined at the lower abdomen. Each had their own heart and other vital organs, improving their chances of surviving the separation, paediatric surgeons at Netcare Unitas hospital, Dr Mariza de Villiers and Dr Paul Stevens said in a statement ahead of the operation.

Stevens explained that anaesthesia was the main challenge facing the surgical team. They were conjoined in such a way that they were facing each other.

“Intubation for such tiny babies is delicate enough, but as their faces are so close to one another and they are not able to be placed on their backs to be intubated for anaesthesia, this was a great deal more complicated than usual,” he said.

Four anaesthetists took care of the twins during the surgery. It took more than three hours, almost half of the theatre time, to get the anaesthetics “just right”.

The twins were separated at midday and the surgery was completed shortly before 14:00.

A theatre team of 11 nursing professionals and eight doctors took part in the procedure.

On January 30, paediatrician Dr Marleen Engelbrecht said the twins were stable and recovering well.

“Uwenzile and Uyihlelile are no longer being fed intravenously and their bodily functions are all working healthily,” Engelbrecht said in a statement.

The Swaziland government’s Phalala Fund paid for the operation.

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