Conjoined twin boys have been successfully separated after a remarkable 12-hour operation using 3D printer technology.
Medics in China worked tirelessly to separate 5-month-old twins Yu Ce Yuan and Yu Ce Xiang – known as James and Harley – who were joined at the abdomen.
The surgery, on February 24, was made possible by the generosity of strangers around the world who donated $60,000 to cover the cost of the operation.
The twins’ 20-year-old parents Yu Dang and Zhou Li travelled over 1,000 miles from their home in the poor Guizhou province to Fudan University Children’s Hospital in Shanghai for treatment.
Surgeons used 3D models to develop a plan for surgery, but the operation took three hours longer than expected and was one of the most difficult surgeries ever undertaken at the hospital.
The twins shared a liver and pelvic bone, and a team of doctors spent three hours separating the pelvis before moving on to the intestines.
A urology team then worked to place the babies’ bladders back inside their bodies before orthopaedic surgeons took over to reconstruct their pelvic cavities. Finally the surgeons fitted colostomies and closed all incisions before the boys were taken to intensive care.
The hospital vice president, surgeon Mr Cheng Shun, said that the innovative 3D printing technology ‘can now benefit all babies’.
The boys have now been removed from their ventilators and doctors are thrilled with their progress.
The couple, from one of the poorest areas of China, had been unable to afford scans before the birth of the twins and the delivery came as a shock to the family and doctors.
In parts of China there is a high abandonment rate of children with birth defects, but Yu Dang and Zhou Li refused to give up on their babies.
The new parents borrowed money to cover the twins’ initial medical expenses but were discharged after being unable to pay the operation fee.
They reached out to Love Without Borders, a charity for orphaned and impoverished children, and after only a month of fundraising sufficient money had been raised.
Mum, Zhou Li, said: ‘In the beginning there was nothing abnormal. It was only when I had the baby that I realised they were conjoined twins.
‘It was very painful and difficult. I felt like I was soon to die, like I couldn’t breathe and there was a lot of blood.
‘I never considered giving them up. I gave birth to these children, they’re my flesh and I wouldn’t give them to anyone else.’
Dad, Yu Dang, spoke of his fears that he would have to choose between his babies’ lives, and spoke of his hopes for their future.
He said: ‘At the beginning we thought the surgical fee was too expensive, then we were scared we’d have to choose between one and the other.
‘Our hopes are that after the successful surgery their living conditions will be improved.
‘We are thankful towards each kind-hearted person’s help. We are very grateful for their support.’
Zhou Li added: ‘In the future I hope they can be doctors, because if there hadn’t been doctors, they wouldn’t have the life they have now.’
Chief Executive Officer of Love Without Boundaries, Amy Eldridge, said: ‘It has been truly humbling to see the outpouring of support from around the world for this young rural couple and their twin boys.
‘As soon as we heard their story we pledged to help, but it only became possible because complete strangers gave from their hearts. That’s love in action at its finest.’
The twins will be required to have further urological surgery in the next six to 12 months, but doctors are optimistic for their future.
To make a donation to James and Harley’s medical care, please visit www.lovewithoutboundaries.com