'I'm holding my children, one in each arm': Conjoined twins separated at Red Cross Hospital

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Mom Ntombikayise Tyhalisi with her separated twins.
Mom Ntombikayise Tyhalisi with her separated twins.
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  • A set of conjoined twins have been successfully separated at the Red Cross Children's Hospital.
  • The twins were joined at the head - the rarest form of conjoining.
  • The surgery, expected to take six hours, took only 90 minutes.


A set of conjoined twins have undergone successful separation surgery at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town.

The twins, Siphosethu and Amahle Tyhalisi, were born attached at the head. The newborns were transported from the Eastern Cape to the Red Cross Children's Hospital at only four days old.

Craniopagus twinning (joined at the head) is the rarest form of conjoined twinning, explained Professor Tony Figaji, head of paediatric neurosurgery at the hospital.

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It occurs about once in every 2.5 million live births worldwide.

"We were fortunate in this case that the connection did not involve any shared brain tissue and didn't involve major [blood] vessels going from one twin to the other," said Figaji.

A multi-disciplinary team of surgeons was put together for this unique operation. Each twin had a team of an anaesthetist, neurosurgeon, plastic surgeon, and nurses.

The surgical team during the separation of the con
The surgical team during the separation of the conjoined twins.
Mom Ntombikayise Tyhalisi with her separated twins
Mom Ntombikayise Tyhalisi with her separated twins.

'Huge plus'

Professor Saleigh Adams, head of plastic surgery at the hospital, said the teams were prepared for a marathon surgery.

"We were prepared for a six-hour, at least, surgery. On this occasion, the surgery lasted all of one-and-a-half hours. This is a huge plus for the recovery of the twins," he said.

Mother Ntombikayise Tyhalisi, 31, said: "I am overjoyed! I wasn't expecting to leave [the hospital] holding my children, one in each arm."

She said she was looking forward to taking the twins home to meet their siblings.

"I am happy now that they've been separated because, when they were still joined, it wasn't easy to hold them and it was difficult for me to bathe them, the nurses had to help me. Now that they've been separated, things are going to be much easier and my sister is going to help me here and there during this time," Tyhalisi said.

The focus now turns to ensuring the healthy healing of the surgical areas. Both patients and mom are doing well following the surgery and continue to receive follow-up care.

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