Battle to save Jodie will begin at moment her 'unviable' sister dies

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The Independent Online

The Siamese twins, Jodie and Mary, now face a complex 12-hour operation to separate them, which will mean death for Mary and, if she survives the surgery, the beginning of a long battle for her sister.

The Siamese twins, Jodie and Mary, now face a complex 12-hour operation to separate them, which will mean death for Mary and, if she survives the surgery, the beginning of a long battle for her sister.

The operation will be carried out by doctors from St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. If Jodie does survive the operation, she will face many more painful and risky operations to enable her to begin living anything like a normal life.

The twins, who are now five weeks old, are joined at the abdomen with their arms and legs at right angles to their conjoined trunk.

Their spines are fused and both rely on Jodie's heart and lungs because Mary's heart is malformed and her lungs never inflated, so she relies on her twin for her blood supply.

Mary has a deformed face, one eye is closed and she is described as having a "primitive" brain. Jodie is thought to have normal mental functions and was described in the court as being "bright and alert".

The surgeon leading the operation wants to wait until the twins are three months old. However, if the "unviable" twin, Mary, carries on growing at the expense of her stronger sister, the operation will be brought forward to the second week of October.

Cases of Siamese, or conjoined, twins are rare, occurring in about one per 100,000 live births. In Britain only Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, where the twins are being treated, have any experience of separating Siamese twins. Although the cases are so rare and the way Siamese twins are joined is so varied that there is no precedent.

Great Ormond Street's team has treated 16 pairs of Siamese twins since 1985, while St Mary's has separated just two sets. Only 12 of the 32 babies separated at Great Ormond Street have survived, and there is little information about their continuing health problems.

The operation will mean certain death for Mary as separation will cut off her blood supply from Jodie and she will die within minutes.

Doctors believe that Jodie has a 5 per cent chance of dying on the operating table, rising to 64 per cent if the separation has to be done as emergency surgery.

If Jodie survives the operation, she will need numerous operations to have reconstructive surgery on her lower abdomen, rectum and possibly sexual organs.

She may not be able to walk because of nerve damage when her fused spine is cut from Mary's and she could be left paralysed. She will have to have a colostomy bag for bodily waste, and deal with numerous problems associated with her deformed digestive system.

She also does not have enough skin to cover the separation wound and will have to live with the knowledge that the skin on part of her body was cut from her dead sister to cover where they were joined.

However, doctors from St Mary's are optimistic that Jodie has a good chance of normal life because she could be of normal intelligence, and there is a possibility that she will able to walk and have children.