An Australian woman has miraculously given birth to conjoined twins with one body and two brains despite doctors initially telling them to terminate the pregnancy.
Renee Young and Simon Howie, of Tregear in Sydney’s west, welcomed their daughters on Thursday six weeks before they were due.
The couple, who found out via an ultrasound that the twins they were expecting was in fact one child with two symmetrical faces and two brains connected by the one brain stem, said doctors were shocked by the girls’ exceptional progress.
‘They are breathing perfectly on their own and feeding,’ Mr Howie told Woman’s Day.
Ms Young gave birth to the girls, named Faith and Hope, via an emergency caesarean at Blacktown Hospital last Thursday.
The girls were born with a rare condition called diprosopus, which means they share the same body and vital organs but have their own faces and brains which are connected by only one brain stem.
‘Even though there is only one body, we call them our twins. To us, they are our girls and we love them,’ Mr Howie said.
They were transferred to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead shortly after they were born.
‘We have no idea how long they will be in hospital. We just want to bring them home, happy and healthy to make our family a little bit bigger and a bit more chaotic,’ Mr Howie said.
Baby born with rare disorder causing two faces.
The condition is so rare that only 35 cases have ever been recorded and none have survived.
Due to the incredibly complex nature of their condition, doctors are so unsure about what to expect from the twin’s condition that they are being forced to make their prognoses day by day.
Mr Howie confirmed that specialists are being called in to decipher a range of problems and assess the twins in great depth, from the functioning of their lungs and blood vessels to decisions about how best to proceed with feeding.
But despite all the forewarned medial problems likely to come their way, Ms Young and Mr Howie are just happy their girls are alive and well.
‘I think they’re beautiful and Simon thinks they’re beautiful so really that’s all that matters,’ Ms Young told A Current Affair.
As the parents of seven other children, Renee and her husband Simon Howie never considered terminating while the girls grew healthy.
From as early as 28 weeks into Ms Young’s pregnancy, specialists were concerned about grave developmental issues.
One of the biggest predicted survival risks from their doctor Greg Kesby, was that the babies would be unable to breathe on their own.
The couple, who are parents to seven other children, were also told early on in the pregnancy not to keep the child ‘because it would be looked upon by the public as a freak’.
They defied the doctors because Ms Young had never terminated a pregnancy and because they had a family ‘that gives us a lot of support’.
At first, things certainly looked to be taking a turn for the worst as Ms Young unexpectedly went into labour at only 32 weeks last Thursday, and was forced to have an emergency caesarean.
But despite problems from the first moments of their birth, in which Faith and Hope were not heard to be breathing despite having a clear singular heartbeat, the girls have now defied all odds and are currently in a stable state and breathing without any assistance.
Although the couple were aware from the early stages of pregnancy that their children would have great developmental problems, they explained that while the girls continued to grow healthily, they couldn’t come to terms with letting their unborn twins go.
‘We sort of looked at it as; it’d be the same as being a child with autism or Down syndrome. I sort of don’t believe in terminating the baby if it’s healthy and growing fine and everything is going to plan,’ Mr Howie said.
The proud parents of the small survivors have braced themselves for a difficult path ahead and refuse to say goodbye prematurely.
‘I would say, if I only get two days with the baby, I only get two days with the baby – at least I have some time with it,’ Ms Young said.