BY VANESSA GONYE
Ordinarily, the arrival on earth of one’s new baby should bring abundant joy to any father; and if the news arrives of the delivery of a set of twins, many fathers would go beside themselves with happiness.
It is, however, unfortunate that the situation is not always the same every time.
Life sometimes carries with it the cruelty to accompany such supposed joy with sadness, worry and at times even depression.
When he received the news that his wife had given birth to a set of twins on December 10, 2020, Tapiwa Mutare’s instinctive reaction was excitement and happiness.
The elation was, however, brutally cut short.
Before he could come to terms with the happiness of having a twin bundle of joy, he was brought down from cloud nine very heavily with the ugly news that his little angels were born in a life-threatening condition — they were joined and it required a miracle to separate them.
“I did not believe my ears when I heard this at first. But when it later sank in, I thought it was a curse and I got depressed,” Mutare told The Standard.
“I asked God why it had to be me. I asked myself a lot of questions to which I found no answers.
“Then I resigned myself to fate and left everything in the hands of God. I began to follow what I was being told about what the government was planning to do in efforts to save by babies.”
Martha Nyambipo, the mother of the twin girls, also spoke to The Standard and said she had little faith the operation would succeed.
She said she could not believe a separation was possible. In fact, she said, she was only biding God’s time.
“I was in pain and I thought what the doctors were saying was just mere talk meant to soothe me,” Nyambipo said.
“I thought maybe they were just out to experiment on my children. But I thank God for showing His power on the successful operation. When I was told it had been successful, I was beside myself with joy. I can’t really explain how I felt.
“I just could not bring myself to believe my babies could actually be separated and live as separate individuals.”
So rare are conjoined twins that their occurrence is estimated to range from one in 50 000 births to 1 in 200 000 births in the world.
The overall survival rate for conjoined twins is approximately one in four.
After many weeks of anxiety, hope and fear, the babies were eventually separated in a complex medical procedure that took many hours and was done by a big team of specialists, a good number of whom were volunteers.
Anotidaishe and Atipaishe were joined at the abdominal pelvic region and were successfully operated on in a 22-hour surgery performed on February 23 at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, formerly Harare Central Hospital.
The operation involved sharing the liver and intestines between the two babies.
Atipaishe and Anotidaishe became the country’s second successfully separated conjoined twins after the historic first such feat that was executed by surgeon Bothwell Mbuwayesango in 2014.
Mbuwayesango, along with largely the same team of doctors and specialists that were involved in the most recent operation, successfully separated conjoined twins, Tapiwanashe and Kupakwashe Chitiyo.
Kudzayi Munanzvi, who led the team that later took care of one of the twins, said the success of the historic operation was a result of collective effort.
She said this during the recent visit to the hospital by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Health and Child Care minister.
“I would like to commend the team, which comprised those in service, medical students, nursing staff, and doctors in private practice as well as those who have since retired who offered their expertise free of charge,” Munanzvi said.
“The team was very dedicated; everyone was at the hospital and ready by 6am on the day for the operation, which lasted until 4am the following day.”
Tungamirai Gwatirisa led the team that took charge of and operated on the other twin.
While speaking at the meeting with Chiwenga, Mbuwayesango expressed concern over the likelihood of the country’s medical specialists being “stolen” by other countries.
He said owing to such historic success, the country faced a real threat of losing talent.
Such specialists, he said, were already receiving lucrative offers outside the country.
“I have never seen a group of dedicated nurses such as the one in the paediatric unit,” he said.
“But there is a magnet that is very attractive that is pulling them and we are going to lose them.
“We have to do whatever is in our power to keep them.”
Mbuwayesango said they had received consultation offers from Equitorial Guinea and Cameroon for assistance in separating pairs of Siamese twins there.
In response, Chiwenga urged the doctors to take up the offers from needy countries, saying they should go and fly the country’s flag high.
“The successful operation is a benchmark of medical excellence in the country,” said Chiwenga who promised to look into the conditions of service of medical personnel working for government.
Zimbabwe has had five documented cases of conjoined twins since independence and only one was referred outside the country, while in two instances the babies died before surgery.