When this child was born in Bihar (northern India), many villagers regarded her as the reincarnation of the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. And the girl received this name, Lakshmi.
But Lakshmi Tatma is not a supernatural being; on the contrary, she was born with a headless, undeveloped parasitic twin joined to her pelvis, and the extra four limbs were the arms and legs of the undeveloped sister. The other twin stopped growing in the mother's womb.
Lakshmi integrated into her body the limbs, kidneys and other organs of the undeveloped fetus. Lakshmi has had two merged spines, four kidneys, entangled nerves, two stomach cavities and two chest cavities, not to mention she cannot stand up or walk on her many limbs.
But doctors at Sparsh Hospital in Bangalore and her parents
decided Lakshmi deserves a normal life, in which she would be able to walk. In fact, in her condition, Lakshmi could have not reached adolescence. "It's a big team effort of a lot of skilled surgeons who will be putting their heart and soul into solving the problem of Lakshmi. It's going to take many, many hours on a continuous basis to operate on the baby. So, these issues definitely make it complex.", said Dr. Sharan Patil, lead surgeon of a team of 30, before the operation that gave Lakshmi a normal life.
"She's a very cute girl. She's very playful and gets along well with others. The hospital's foundation is paying for the operation because the girl's family could not afford the medical bills," said Dr. Patil Mamatha. "Everybody considers her a goddess at our village. All this expenditure has happened to make her normal.", said Shambhu, her father.
The extremely rare case of Lakshmi had attracted the attention of people willing to gain money from her deformity: a circus even attempted to buy the girl, and the parents had to hide the child.
Now, the two-year-old girl has just been successfully operated, the surgery starting at 0700 local time (0130 GMT) on Tuesday and completed at 1000 local time (0430 GMT) on Wednesday, so it lasted 27 hours.
The team managed to separate Lakshmi's spinal column, extra-limbs and kidney from that of the parasite. "Lakshmi is stable and sound," said the doctor leading the operation. She withstood the operation, and now she's safe and doing well. We will keep a close watch on her for the next 48 to 72 hours and won't move from the hospital until she stabilizes. I'm optimistic about the child's survival", said Patil, who gives Lakshmi 80 % chances of survival.
By now, Lakshmi is still on ventilation. The girl will require further operations to correct club feet and rebuild pelvic floor muscles. Conjoined twins appear in one to 200,000 births, developing from a sole fertilized egg (being monozygot), thus they are identical. Survival rate in these cases is 5 to 25%. 600 surviving couples are known in the last five centuries, 70% of which were females.