| Ladan (left) and Laleh Bijani, a pair of conjoined twins from Iran, at a news conference in Singapore. Doctors will try to make history next month by separating the 30-year-old twins, who are risking death for the chance to lead separate lives. “We would like to see the face of each other without the mirror,” they said. (Reuters)
Singapore, June 11 (Reuters): Twin Iranian sisters fused at the head said today they were willing to risk death for the chance to live separate lives, even against the advice of specialist doctors.
At a rare and at times emotional news conference in Singapore ahead of their scheduled surgery sometime in July, the 29-year-old sisters Ladan and Laleh Bijani — both law graduates — said physical separation — was a lifelong dream.
Sharing a cream coloured headscarf, they talked of different ambitions and desires. Ladan, the more outspoken of the two, said she wants to be a lawyer and live in her home town in Iran of Shiraz, while Laleh wants to be a journalist in Tehran.
Twins fused at the head occur only once in every two million live births, and successful separation is even rarer. Singapore doctors performed the operation in 2001 on infant girls from Nepal, but experts say an operation on adult twins is unprecedented.
Keith Goh, a neurosurgeon at Singapore’s Raffles Hospital who will lead the surgical team, said he tried to talk the twins out of the operation.
“We spent the last three months trying to dissuade them,” he said. “We spelled out the downside to the surgery in very explicit terms.”
German doctors had turned away the Bijanis in 1996, deeming that splitting them could prove fatal. But the sisters continued their search for surgeons willing to separate them, arriving in Singapore last November for medical and psychological tests. After seven months, doctors said the operation was possible because the women had anatomically separate brains.
“We don’t have any fear of the surgery because we know that every surgery has a high risk,” said Ladan.
Singapore experts in neurosurgery, plastic surgery, radiology and anaesthesia will be joined by specialists from the US, France, Japan and Switzerland for the operation, expected to begin in early July and last at least three days.
“We would like to see the face of each other without the mirror,” said Laleh.
One reporter’s voice wavered with emotion as she asked the two if they had any last wish.
For as long as she could remember, “when we opened our eyes to see the light, we wanted to be separated,” Laden said.
“We want to have different careers after the surgery. I want to be a lawyer and my sister wants to be a journalist like you. We have a lot of work and dreams to do after surgery,” Laden said.
They said they had endured enough sacrifices and compromises because of two very different personalities.