SRINAGAR: A Kashmiri born Muslim doctor based in London has helped a group of Israeli doctors to successfully operate on a pair of twins conjoined at the head, with the babies now likely to lead normal lives. The surgery took hundreds of hours to plan and 12 hours to perform.
The 12-hour surgery took place in Beersheba, Israel and was supported by a local team at Soroka Medical Centre in Israel. It is the first time the rare and complex procedure has been executed outside the UK by the team at Gemini Untwined since it was founded in 2018. The team have now completed five separation surgeries altogether since 2006.
According to a report published in The Times Of Israel, staff at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba successfully completed the operation on the twins conjoined at the head and said that the babies are now likely to grow up to live normal lives.
Dr Noor Ul Owase Jeelani, a pediatric neurosurgeon at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, has performed four other separation surgeries on twins who were conjoined at the head with fused skulls, intertwined brains, and shared blood vessels. He and his colleague, Professor David Dunaway, are seen as the world’s experts on such cases.
Jeelani directs a nonprofit, Gemini Untwined, to plan and perform such operations. When doctors at Soroka needed to prepare for the operation, they reached out to him. He agreed, for the first time, to operate outside the UK, the report said. The Gemini Untwined specializes in managing the separation of Craniopagus twins (CPT), two independent children connected to each other with fused skulls, intertwined brains and shared blood vessels. This is the most difficult surgery in managing the separation of Siamese twins.
Gemini Untwined raises funds to carry out medical and scientific research into, and to treat, conditions potentially requiring craniofacial or neurosurgery. This includes craniopagus conjoined twins who are born joined at the head with a fused skull and separate bodies. Fifty such sets of twins are estimated to be born around the world every year, of which it is thought only 15 survive beyond the first 30 days of life. With current technologies, approximately half of these cases would be candidates for successful surgical separation.
Quoting Jeelani The Times Of Israel reported that the fact that a Kashmir-born Muslim doctor scrubbed up alongside an Israeli team to help a Jewish family was a reminder of the universal nature of medicine.
“It was a fantastic family that we helped,” Jeelani stated. ”As as I have said all my life, all children are the same, whatever colour or religion. The distinctions are man-made. A child is a child. From a doctor’s point of view, we’re all one.”
He found the family’s delight at the success of the operation deeply moving.
“There was this very special moment when the parents were just over the moon,” Jeelani said. “I have never in my life seen a person smile, cry, be happy, and be relieved at the same time. The mother simply couldn’t believe it, we had to pull up a chair to help her to calm down.”
Jeelani’s involvement with conjoined twins started in 2017, when a neurosurgeon from Peshawar, Pakistan, asked him to operate on identical conjoined twins, Safa and Marwa, born three months earlier to a woman from rural northern Pakistan, said the report.
He raised the money from a Pakistani oil trader, called Murtaza Lakhani and, with Dunaway, successfully performed the operation, after hundreds of hours of preparation. He went on to establish Gemini Untwined, and perform more surgeries.
Jeelani worked for months on the Israeli surgery.
“We’ve been involved right from the start, talking to the team in Israel and planning it with them over a period of six months,” he said.
“This latest surgery fulfils a key objective of our charity, namely, to empower local teams abroad to undertake this complex work, successfully utilizing our experience, knowledge, and skills gained over the past 15 years with our previous four sets of twins,” The Times Of Israel quoted Jeelani as saying.
In June 2020, a Turkish family also managed a surgery of their twins in the UK that was performed by 42 doctors led by Jeelani. Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had personally intervened to ensure the Evrensel family from Antalya is properly helped in managing the surgery of the Siamese twins.
Noor ul Owase Jeelani is a Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon and has worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) part-time since 2000 and full time since 2009. He was the head of Neurosurgery from 2012-2018 and holds an Honorary Associate Professorship at the Institute of Child Health, University College London. He was listed as amongst the Top 100 surgeons in the UK by the Times magazine in 2011.