Tuesday, November 6, 2007
BANGALORE, India (CNN ) — Partway through a mammoth 40-hour operation on a 2-year-old girl born with four arms and four legs, surgeons in India said the procedure is going according to plan, with no problems encountered.
“The surgery is going on very well so far,” head surgeon Dr. Sharan Patil told CNN. The surgery to separate Lakshmi Tatma from her “parasitic twin” continues, he said, with a team of some 30 surgeons.
“We’ve managed to remove the parasitic twin out of Lakshmi’s body and started reconstructing her pelvic bone. We have managed to get the pelvic bone together.”
The little girl, he said, has “responded very well. … Everything is going according to plan.”
The task began early Tuesday in the southern Indian city of Bangalore and is expected to go on through the night, with surgeons working eight-hour shifts. Watch images of Lakshmi as she prepares for surgery »
The conjoined twin stopped developing in the mother’s womb, and has a torso and limbs, but no head. It was joined to Lakshmi at the pelvis.
When Lakshmi was born into a poor, rural Indian family, villagers in the remote settlement of Rampur Kodar Katti in the northern state of Bihar believed she was sacred. As news of her birth spread, locals waited in line for a blessing from the baby.
Her parents, Shambhu and Poonam Tatma, named the girl after the Hindu goddess of wealth who has four arms. However, they were forced to keep her in hiding after they were approached by men offering money in exchange for putting their daughter in a circus.
The couple, who earn just $1 a day as casual laborers, wanted her to have the operation but were unable to pay for the rare procedure, which has never before been performed in India.
After Patil visited the girl in her village from Narayana Health City hospital in Bangalore, the hospital’s foundation agreed to fund the $200,000 operation.
The operation is being conducted by specialists in pediatrics, neurosurgery, orthopedics and plastic surgery. Without it, doctors say, Lakshmi would be unlikely to survive beyond early adolescence.
Planning for the surgery took a month, Patil said, and Lakshmi spent that month in the hospital.
Her parents are being given regular updates but are not allowed to see their daughter during the operation.
“We are quite optimistic,” Patil told CNN. “We do expect that she should be able to walk normally and lead a normal life.”
Many villagers, however, remain opposed to surgery and are planning to erect a temple to Lakshmi, who they still revere as sacred.
Patil said Lakshmi’s parents are “very practical” and knew the risks of the medical treatment. Asked about the belief she is a reincarnation of the goddess, he said, “She’s a very charming young girl, and I’m sure she’ll grow up and be something special.”
Journalist Priyanjana Dutta in Bangalore contributed to this report.