Zim in medical breakthrough: • Conjoined twins separated • Only Zim surgeons involved

Conjoined twinsPaidamoyo Chipunza and Susan Mabunze
ZIMBABWE has broken new ground in its medical history by successfully performing the first major operation on Siamese twins born in April, with a team of 50 having worked on the eight-hour delicate procedure at Harare Children’s Hospital.
Born on April 22 this year to a Murehwa couple, the twin boys christened Kupakwashe and Tapiwanashe, were joined from the lower chest to the upper abdomen and shared a liver.

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The most delicate part of the operation was on the liver, which had to be cut into two to ensure that both boys were left with something, although a liver can grow back if a part of it is removed.

Speaking after visiting the boys who are recuperating in the Intensive Care Unit, Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr Paul Chimedza said the procedure was testimony to the quality of health professionals in the country.

He said the successful operation signified how quick the country’s public health system was recovering.

Zimbabwe health sector was affected by brain-drain and funding constraints over the past 14 years as the West’s illegal economic sanctions regime constrained Government’s capacity to fund the sector.

“This (the historic op) is something that the nation should sit and take note of, that our professionals can stand head-to-head with other professionals across the world and do exactly what they can do,” Dr Chimedza said.

“What we probably need to do is to give the professionals the environment to do their work, the tools of the trade, and to support them in whichever way we can.”

Dr Chimedza said Government would, with its little resources, continue to ensure that the environment was enabling for the professionals to effectively use their skills.

“We have Zimbabweans across the world who are doing big things in Canada, United States or Great Britain, but it is another thing when we do things here and especially at Harare Hospital,” he said. “It is commendable that we are doing things here.”

One of the paediatric surgeons who took part in the critical surgical separation, Dr Bothwell Mbuvayesango, attributed the success of the procedure to teamwork.

“We needed everybody for us to be able to separate the babies properly,” he said. “We also needed a lot of planning because it is not an everyday occurrence, there are very few incidents in the world where siamese twins are separated.

“This was an all inclusive Zimbabwean team of doctors. We did not get any help from any other doctors from outside the country and the success is because we managed to plan and work together.”

Dr Mbuvayesango said the twins were separated on Tuesday last week and their condition “is being monitored closely.”

“They are doing very well, they are feeding, they are breathing on their own, they are happy and they look strong,” he said. “We still have them in the hospital for a little while just waiting for their wounds to heal.”

Kupakwashe and Tapiwanashe, now weighing 4,4kgs and 3,4ks respectively, could be seen twirling their feet and fingers from their separate incubators, while their 25-year old mother sat with a watchful eye on them.

The twin’s father Mr Moses Chitigo, a fruit and vegetable vendor in Murehwa, said the success of the procedure was a relief to his family.

He said although his wife was going for antenatal care during pregnancy, no one had been open to them about the condition of the babies.

“The scan results read that there were separate heart beats, but there was no visible dividing membrane,” he said. “Although I was a bit suspicious about the part which talked of a “dividing membrane”, I did not discuss it with my wife because she is hypertensive and no one else really told us what it meant.”

Mr Chitigo who already has two other children with his wife aged four and two years, said he was then called on April 22 by his wife while on his way from Mbare Musika advising him to meet her at Harare Children’s Hospital.

“All she could say was that she had been referred to Harare Hospital because she had given birth to conjoined twins,” he said. “I was shocked. I was confused and I did not know what to do, but God gave me strength and I came to meet my wife. Together, we kept saying our prayers for the survival of our children and God has answered our prayers.”

Siamese twins result from either fission, in which the fertilised egg splits partially; or fusion, in which a fertilised egg completely separates but stem cells search for similar cells on the other embryo and fuse the twins.

So rare are conjoined twins that their occurrence is estimated to range from 1 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.

They are known as “Siamese twins” after the famous pair of Chang and Eng Bunker from Siam, now Thailand.

The only known local operation on Siamese twins was a “very minor” one successfully done at the same hospital in the 80s.

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.

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  • Roger

    Kudo’s we have it in us! lets keep shining!

    • Disaster

      We have always known our country has massive human resource capacity to carry out these sort of extraordinary tasks. It is therefore surprising to note that some people who claim to be true nationalists would rather seek treatment in far off countries when they could easily get the same at a fraction of the cost locally.

    • Truth

      Tinotenda vakatipa dzidzo,well done Zimbabwe. This is believing in ourselves.

  • matadzaenyoka

    Good work guys. Can we now show heart again and help those poor women reported by the Horrid last week as being pregnant when they probably have tumors.. Chimedza come with something to help these ladies as you can see we have the skilsl, we only lack politicians who love the people.

    • tafamutekwe

      A great achievement worth celebrating. We are proud of this medical team and it demonstrated its will to achieve despite the great odds against success; poor working conditions, an underfunded health delivery system, inadequate equipment, meddling “political-doctors”, etc. Had this Murehwa couple been moneyed they would have opted to take their Siamese twins out of the country for this delicate operation to be performed but with no money and no sponsors they were left at the mercy of what expertise is still available locally. Our medics ‘s commitment to serve over-rode the profit need. God bless you all and speedy recovery to the infants!

      • Kenny

        True ,but we must get feedbacks on situations where the doctors try and fail so that we correctly measure successes scored.Well on this one!.

  • Mari

    Pray for fully recovery and healthy babies. Makorokoto kunana chiremba

  • Ndareva

    Anoramba achiita mabasa makuru! Be blessed doctors and a speedy recovery and fruitful life to the lads.

  • mafira kureva

    kuti Zimbo ndokuti munhu

  • Mimi

    This is awesome. Well done to the Zimbabwean doctors for defying the odds and doing a great job. This must be testimony that Zimbabwe is destined for better things in the future. Quite a relief for the parents and everyone involved. Am totally impressed.

  • Cde Gabarinocheka

    How much more could we be doing if there was enough investment in research and experiments

  • Musimwa81

    Well done. Lets celebrate this achievement. Most of all lets thank God that these boys have pulled through and will continue to well.

    Does this signify an “improvement”of zim overall health sector, I DOUBT IT.

  • miki

    We give glory to the Almighty for the work through the doctors.Tinoshuwira hutano kuvana namai.

  • elizabeth

    Im happy for us, keep shining guyz.

  • jane

    all the glory to God,thank you all who participated for your love and boys you’re blessed.

  • omega

    Well done on the good work.


    Well done vanachiremba. you have put an extra cap on the medical fratenity. give thanx to the almighty. zimbabwe zvazvinhuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

  • Observer

    This is courage under fire, congrats ana chiremba..

  • Thandekile

    I knew Mr Mbuvayesango (by the way a Specialist surgeon is referred to as Mr not Dr) had a hand in this. This Dr does amazing work I tell you. Continue with your hard work and may the Lord continue to bless you chiremba.

  • Sr Muchadenyika

    Proud 2b associated. Asi ruoko rwaJehova takarwuona apa.

  • Dzapiringana Chimhini Haipo

    “What we probably need to do is to give the professionals the environment to do their work, the tools of the trade, and to support them in whichever way we can.”

    And that can only happen if we usher in a new dispensation and do away with the old guard and their archaic , liberation war mindset. Nyika takahwina kare varume!!!!

  • Tichaona Miti

    Zimbabwe has skills …. we lack resources… but with we can use what we have to achieve what we want. Go Zim!!!!

  • vie

    Mwari ngavakudzwe

  • Taurai

    Well done. You made Zimbabwe proud. Long live Zimbabwe…

  • zimbo1

    I salute you our MEDICAL TEAM you make us proud. You make us be counted among the greats. You inspire the nation with pride and confidence that “we can do it”. Please God give these your servants more wisdom, selflessness and true servitude they proclaim in their oath.
    Gone are the days of going ku SA, India or China. This has shown that with appropriate and adquate resourses Zimbabwe can easily be the referal country in terms of medical interventions. Ministry of Health please nurture these geniuses and grow more teams in other sectors (cancers, open heart surgeries, even AIDS and Cosmetic interventions)
    MaZimbo can do it.
    For the Chitongo’s I sincerely wish speedy recovery to our young guys. Keep us informed of their progress. They must be nurtured to be history makers in their lives, starting from their birth, then their successful operation, and so on.
    To Harare Hospital (pa GOMO) you have always been our flagship hospital and a strong brand that with adequate resources can the nation adequately and can stand shoulder to shoulder with any hospitals in the world. “Ini ndinodada nemi”

  • Rurururu

    Mwari vakatendeka havo. Nekuti ndiMwari, ma doctors 50 and other supporting staff did their best to help these sons of a vegetable vendor successfully. Dai vasivo Mwari these same docs vangadai vakafunga zvemari mberi as in most cases, vaitotanga vachaja pangadai parikudaidzirwa mazimari asingabatiki infact vangadai vakatoitwa referred to SA or India, asi ndiMwari vanesimba vakarangarira a vegetable vendor…..in such a way. Ndosaka ndichivada Mwari ava, vanosimudza marombe kubva muguruva…eish am touched, GLORY BE TO GOD. Nevose vakabatsira Mwari avaropafadze zvizhinji.

  • dejure

    with ch local talent why do we still see it fit to go to Malaysia for minor checkups. Let us practice what we preach and have confidence in ourselves.

  • rinovava

    for once we have something to CHEERas we are tired of political tirade that has reduced our population to beggars. may we conquor more. bless the hands that work, bless those who chose life.

  • John Chimindo

    Good going doctors. Very well done. The only problem I have with the article is the attribution of the collapse of health care system to sanctions. Perhaps, but there is also the issue of corruption and government policies that are not investor friendly. A bunch of greedy politicians whose greed has overridden national interests and common humanity. Good luck to the boys and their parents.

  • War vet

    thanks doctor Mbuwayesango for being humble, thats great leadership. in other publications you are quoted as saying

    “We managed to separate the two successfully and this was through
    teamwork,” Mbuwayesango said. “We had close to 50 doctors, nurses,
    assistants . . . we needed everyone — even the cleaners —to be able to
    separate the twins properly.”

    wish everyone in society would appreciate the contribution of others even the person at the lowest level.

  • richard black

    meanwhile people die everyday because they are turned away from hospital for not having any money ………….vote ZANU PF NG we are the future

  • Winds of Change

    Well done Zimbabwe

  • Paul the Apostle

    Good job. But please stop boasting. Just thank God who gives grace.

  • Chipo Chimhundu

    So proud of all those involved! A job very well done and mbiri kunaShe :-)

  • floki vikings

    Great Job guys. Proud of u guy. Zimbabwe….

  • Rumbie

    This was definitely a great way to start the week! This not only proves to the rest of the world but most importantly, us as Zimbabweans that with an enabling (and even a not-so enabling environment) we have the skills and expertise to accomplish amazing things. We need more stories like this!