Mon. Nov 18th, 2019

Saving Nima and Dawa: Conjoined twins’ mercy dash from Bhutan to Melbourne for radical surgery

ROYAL Children’s Hospital surgeons will attempt to separate conjoined baby twins after a year-long effort to rescue the girls from one of the world’s most isolated regions in the Himalayas.

Tiny Nima and Dawa Pelden are expected to arrive in Melbourne on Tuesday after a mercy flight from Bhutan, where the girls shocked their parents and doctors when they were born conjoined 14 months ago.

Premier Daniel Andrews says the government will speak to the Royal Children’s Hospital about whether it could “step in and make a contribution on behalf of all Victorians”.

“We don’t want this family to be out of pocket,” he said.

Mr Andrews added there was “amazing pride” in the fact the twins were being flown to Melbourne for the complex surgery.

“They are coming to the best children’s hospital anywhere in the world to get the best care.”

Joined at their lower chest and through their tummies, Nima and Dawa have struggled to survive while permanently facing each other as though they are trapped staring into a mirror and unable to move.

But nine years after they combined to save Bangladeshi conjoined sisters Trishna and Krishna, the Children First Foundation and the RCH have teamed up in the belief they can safely separate the Bhutanese babies and offer them a full life.

Having lived in constant the fear of knowing that if one of her fragile daughters dies her sister will also be lost, mother Bhumchu Zangmo, 38, said she was overwhelmed by the Australian effort to help them.

“I am very concerned for their future life, so I cannot think of not separating them,” Bhumchu told the Herald Sun through an interpreter.

“Even if the surgery takes away one twin, I will be very happy for the other living twin.

“I am extremely happy that help has finally come. Not only happy, I am ecstatic now that surgery will be possible in Australia.”

With no chance of Bhutan’s limited medical resources safely separating her daughters, Bhumchu had been so desperate for help she even asked local doctors if they should intervene, knowing it would only save one of her daughters.

But RCH head of paediatric surgery Mr Joe Crameri is confident his team will give both girls full and individual lives.

“On the best of the information we have at the moment I think we can offer them separation and I think we can offer them the ability to go home and live a normal life,” Mr Crameri said.

“We think they have joined liver which we can separate; we think they have joined bowel which we can separate; we don’t think they have major structures such as the heart or the lungs which are shared.

“So it also means we have the opportunity to separate them without leaving them with long term legacies, and I think that is important.”

The Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the least developed countries in South Asia, whose government measures the collective spirit of its population and bases policies on ‘Gross Domestic Happiness’ rather than wealth.

Sandwiched between China and India as one of the most remote and high altitude countries on earth, little could be done to help the twins in Bhutan, sparking an international effort to find a hospital capable of undertaking the complex surgery.

Monash Children’s Hospital surgeon Assoc Prof Chris Kimber initially answered the call and asked CFF to help him bring the twins to his hospital for separation.

As more information was gathered the complex case was referred to the internationally renowned RCH, which confirmed in June it would offer the girls a lifeline.

The hospital has been planning the surgery ever since, assembling a team of six surgeons and dozens of specialist nurses and anaesthetists.

“These occasions are very rare (but) I guess at the Royal Children’s we have a track record of helping the twins recently,” Mr Crameri said.

Marina Te Maro has led the CFF efforts for a year to secure Nima and Dawa’s medical help and travel to Australia, which was drastically stepped up as their health deteriorated over the past two months.

“They are 14-month-old girls that are joined together and desperately need to be able to go through their normal development. They are getting frustrated and they are physically unable to do the things that normal 14-month-old children are able to do” she said.

To avoid an impact on the RCH’s funding the highly complex operation is not being paid for by taxpayers, but CFF hope the Australian community’s generosity will match the skill of the surgeons to raise up to $300,000 needed for their care.

With the surgery and 24/7 care Nima and Dawa will require in Australia the separation process could cost up to $300,000.

CFF chief executive officer Elizabeth Lodge now hopes the Australian public’s generosity during a fundraising campaign can match the RCH’s skill.

“These little girls are extra special because if we didn’t do this surgery … we are just concerned whether they would live,” she said.

“We are just thrilled the Royal Children’s are working with us.

“They have separated conjoined twins before, Trishna and Krishna who were brought to Australia by Children First Foundation, so that expertise and knowledge will be harnessed once again.

“We will have some of the same surgeons, the anaesthetists, the theatre staff, we will have an ICU team back with us again, so 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.”

Here’s how you can help Nima and Dawa:

1: Donate by phone on our toll-free number 1800 99 22 99

2: Text TWINs to 0437 371 371 to make an online donation

3: Visit and select Twins18 as the campaign name

4: 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”

To receive a tax receipt for donations made by electronic transfer please email with the transaction details.

Source: Perth Now, Sunday Times (