Doctors were unable for a second time to help a child suffering from an extremely rare birth defect. The two-year old Egyptian girl, who some time ago successfully underwent an operation to remove a second head, died from a brain infection.
Manar Majed was born in March 2004 with two heads. This type of anomaly is called craniopagus parasiticus and is an extremely rare condition; in the world only eight cases of this illness have been recorded. With this anomaly the embryo divides but does not entirely develop into two twins. In actual fact the second head belonged to the girl’s unborn brother. The girl’s second head had eyes, a nose and a mouth, it could smile and blink, but was not connected to any internal organs and could not exist independently.
In February last year in a child’s clinic in the town of Benh, not far from Cairo, the child’s second head was removed. Then the girl was 10 months old, and she successfully came through the 13-hour operation. After the operation and subsequent intensive therapy Manar’s condition improved significantly, but she continued to frequently contract infections.
Recently the girl’s temperature rose, but this time she was brought to the hospital too late. Pediatrician Abla El-Alfi, who was responsible for the girl’s treatment, said that a serious infection had got into Manar’s brain, which her small organism could not cope with.
Meanwhile, practically at the same time as Manar’s operation, in February 2005 a similar operation was carried out on another baby, Rebecca Martinez from the Dominican Republic. She was also born with two heads, one of which was meant to belong to her twin sister.
Fortunately birth anomalies such as these are extremely rare. Only one in every two million births results in Siamese twins. Recently surgeons have managed to successfully carry out even the most complex operations to separate them. Doctors in Saudi Arabia have managed to complete no less than 10 successful operations to correct this defect. One of their latest successful operations involved the separation of two girls from Poland which was shown live on one of the local TV stations and on the internet.
Translated by James Platt