Conjoined twins' surgery set for this week in Melbourne

Bhutanese twins Nima and Dawa will undergo a six-hour operation

Content Editor / November 07 2018

After two delays, Bhutanese twin girls Nima and Dawa are set to have a six-hour procedure at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital.

"We feel reasonably confident we will be undertaking the procedure this Friday," head of paediatric surgery Joe Crameri said today.

"Because they are getting stronger they are bickering a little bit more.

"Dawa, who is always on the bottom is trying to find a way from not being on the bottom all the time."

The 15-month-old girls are joined from the lower chest to just above their pelvis. Doctors were initially hoping to separate the twins within a week of their arrival in Australia last month, but last-minute testing indicated they weren't strong enough to have the procedure.

Since the operation was delayed, the babies been staying at a property in Kilmore, north of Melbourne, run by the Children First Foundation, which is funding their flights and surgery.

Spokesperson Elizabeth Lodge said the girls were thriving.

"They're manoeuvring around and it's extraordinary watching them get [around]," she said.

Dr Crameri is hopeful the surgery will be straightforward because "that's what the imaging suggests".

"But we know the bowel does move across the middle so whether that's shared or it's just simply moving back and forth across the middle, we won't know until we're in there," said Dr Crameri.

"We're pretty confident other major organs in the body aren't shared."

The surgery is expected to involve 18 medical staff, with two teams for the girls, plus nursing and anaesthetic support teams.

"We've tried to work that balance between minimising the time that [their] mum is away from her family but also to make it safe for the girls," Dr Crameri said. He hopes the girls will be out of hospital within a month of having surgery.

The procedure and recovery are expected to cost at least $350,000 and the state government has offered to pay the bill.

"The interesting question that's been raised and I'm not a psychologist, is how will the girls deal with the fact that they are separated and away from one another for the first time," Dr Crameri said.

"I think it's very difficult for anyone to know what that means."

Nicola Conville has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 20 years across a wide range of print and online publications. Her areas of expertise are parenting, health and travel. She has two children; Lucy, age eight, and Nathan, age five.