All twins share a special connection, but Nima and Dawa were closer than most. The twins from Bhutan thought they were condemned to a life side by side. They two are joined at the lower chest and stomach, and share a liver and possibly even a bowel.
Knowing that they couldn’t live a full life being joined at the torso, their devoted mother made the decision to have the twins undergo separation surgery. The monumental surgery left the twins looking completely different.
Together Since Birth
Bhumchu Zangmo was overjoyed to find out she was pregnant with not one, but two, little girls. She had longed to be a mother and even better, it was two little girls.
Unfortunately, the ultrasound showed something life-changing — the two little girls were joined at the torso. The next fifteen months would be the hardest of Bhumchu’s life.
Born Happy And Healthy
Thankfully, the birth of Nima and Dawa went smoothly and Bhumchu had two healthy, happy little girls. The problem was, they lived in one of the most isolated regions in the Himalayas.
It would take more than a year for Bhumchu to decide that she and the twins would need help from the outside world.
At first, Bhumchu questioned whether she would need to have the girls separated. Nima and Dawa were incredibly close emotionally and bonded with each other immediately.
Over time though, you could tell they were getting frustrated. By the time they turned one, they were struggling to control their movements and develop their strength. Bhumchu decided it was time to separate her twins.
Off To Australia
The closest doctor capable of doing a surgery so complex was in Australia, so Bhumchu packed her bags and traveled to the land down under.
There, Nima and Dawa met with Australian surgeons. After hours of examinations, the doctors revealed that yes, a separation surgery would be possible, but it definitely wouldn’t be easy.
A Marathon Surgery
The surgeon in charge of Nima and Dawa’s fate was Dr. Joe Crameri. He announced that although the surgery is possible, it would take a marathon team of more than eighteen doctors and will be expected to last at least six hours.
Despite the risks, Bhumchu decided to go forward with the surgery to separate her daughters.
The Calm Before The Storm
It is almost as if Nima and Dawa knew that something was coming. The two had grown more and more frustrated with each other but knew there was no comforting them.
Bhumchu tried to comfort them for hours before the surgery, but she knew nothing except the surgery could fix their problems. The next six hours would be the scariest of their lives.
A Shocking Success
Bhumchu and the media waited anxiously at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for hours. Finally, Dr. Crameri came out to announce the surgery was a success and that Nima and Dawa had been successfully separated!
Even though the surgery was a success, there was no way for Bhumchu to know what would happen next.
Despite the life-changing surgery, no one knew how the girls would react to being apart for the first time in their lives.
Dr. Crameri joked that Dawa has been “cheeky” with him since the surgery. He thought she’d be eternally grateful, but at first, she seemed grumpy to not have her sister.
Finding Their Way Back Together
After a few days of recovery, the girls began to act independently and move around on their own. They even began smiling. Dr. Crameri was happy to see that in just a few weeks, they had gained not only independence, but also a lot of strength.
Still, when the girls are laying side-by-side they entwine their legs together. It seems they still have some separation anxiety and always want to be close.
Government Getting Involved
Nima and Dawa’s incredible journey has even caught the attention of both the Bhutanese and Australian governments. Australian premier Dan Andrews said that there’s “great pride” in the surgeons and hospital that did the procedure and that they are even going to consider making a contribution towards Bhumchu’s $300,000 hospital bill.
The King of Bhutan sent a personal letter to Dr. Crameri thanking him for his help and care.
How Will They Pay The Bills?
Many well-off people couldn’t afford a $300,000 hospital bill and it was certainly out of the realm of possibilities for Bhumchu. Thankfully, she and her daughters have had help from the Children First Foundation.
The charity was the one who brought Nima and Dawa to Australia in the first place, and they also provided a retreat for them to recover after the surgery.
A Long Road Ahead
Even though Nima and Dawa made incredible progress in the first few weeks after their surgery, they will have a long road to full recovery. First, they will have to continue to learn how to independently move their bodies.
Nima and Dawa will also need to spend more time separately around other kids so they can be challenged and shown what to do.
They Aren’t Alone
Thankfully, Nima and Dawa aren’t the first conjoined twins to be separated and have to relearn everything they knew about life. There have been many famous conjoined twins throughout history, but only a handful are successfully separated.
Sometimes the surgery is not possible or merely too risky. Other times, the twins don’t actually want to be separated and live a full life conjoined. Whatever the reason is, these other conjoined twins will surely inspire Nima and Dawa later on in life.
Emily And Caitlin Copeland
The Copeland twins are one of the most famous formerly-conjoined twins. The two were separated with the help of Dr. Levin Lally in 1999.
The success Emily and Caitlin have had in recovery is inspiring to all conjoined twins. They both are completely healthy, participate in sports, and even graduated as co-valedictorians.
Maria And Teresa Tapia
These two girls from the Dominican Republic have a strikingly similar story as Nima and Dawa. They were born joined at the abdomen and shared multiple organs.
The girls were successfully separated and their organs were halved. Maria and Teresa were also helped by a charity, the World Pediatric Project, to fund the surgery.
Hassan And Hussein Benhaffaf
These two little boys were born conjoined at the pelvis in 2009. After a grueling 14-hour surgery the two were successfully separated.
The boys have had to struggle through more than a dozen other surgeries since the initial separation surgery, but it’s all been worth it. They just recently started school together walking hand-in-hand.
Yurelia And Fiorella Rocha-Arias
After being born conjoined at the heart and chest, these two little girls underwent a successful surgery to separate them. Two dozen doctors and 12-hours later separated the two, but they will still always have heart problems.
Despite needing constant medical supervision, the girls are happy and healthy school children.
Abby And Brittany Hensel
These two women are one of the rarest types of conjoined twins. Abby and Brittany have two hearts, two brains, and two sets of lungs, but they work the body together. One controls the right side, and one controls the left.
It would be impossible to ever separate these twins, but luckily they don’t need it. They are fully-functioning and have embraced their lives together.
Krista And Tatiana Hogan
The Hogan twins are an even more rare case of conjoined twins because they are separated at the head. The two girls share thirty percent of their brain matter, which means a separation surgery will never be possible.
Their nervous system is highly connected and there is even evidence they can see through each other’s eyes.
Chang And Eng Bunker
The Bunker twins were conjoined only by a joint liver. With modern medicine, the two could have been easily separated at any age. Sadly, they were born in 1811 and the surgery back then was too risky.
They did go on to lead a very happy life. They married a set of sisters and between the two of them they had twenty children.