Conjoined twins Veena and Vani on Saturday turned 14, celebrating their birthday at Hyderabad's Niloufer Hospital, which has been their home for 11 years.
According to reports, the girls are soon going to be shifted out of the hospital, and to a state home, as the risk of surgery has increased and their chances of separating have slimmed, with the twins getting older
It's an that issue has been hanging fire for almost 14 years now on account of various reasons. The fate of the conjoined twins still remains uncertain in spite of the attention the case has received.
The 14-year-old twins, born in Nalgonda district of Telangana, have been fused since birth.
The first stage of the separation surgery was performed in December 2004 by Dr. Yarlagadda Nayudamma in Guntur General Hospital. Veena and Vani have been at the center of media hype since then, their first surgery too was reported extensively, with politicians and bureaucrats visiting the hospital.
After the surgery, the parents had abandoned the twins, citing poverty and lack of money to fund their education and other needs. However, the parents have not ruled out taking them back after the surgery gets completed.The twins were later raised by hospital staff in Guntur but in 2006, they were shifted to Niloufer Hospital in Hyderabad.
In 2008, Dr. Ashish Mehta, Neurosurgeon of Breach Candy Hospital Mumbai, came forward to perform the surgery but it did not work out.
"Doctors told MiD DAY that preliminary reports of their surgery are promising and once the procedure is cleared by a medico ethical committee, the twins will be separated." Mid Day newspaper reported on 17-07-2008.
Later, Dr Keith Goh, neurosurgeon from East Shore Hospital, Singapore was invited to India to examine the kids but unfortunately, that also didn’t work out.
After a series of disappointments, the kids finally got a ray of hope when doctors from UK agreed to examine them in February 2015.
Subsequently, Dr. David Dunaway and Dr. Owase Jeelani from London examined the kids and said that there was an 80 per cent chance of survival following the surgery.
Doctors further explained that the entire procedure would be divided into five separate surgeries, which would take around six to twelve months to accomplish. The twins share an important blood vessel and this is where the risk lies, the doctors added.
Later, the Telangana government wrote a letter to AIIMS, saying that the government was ready in principle, to bear all the expenses of the surgery.
Responding to the letter, AIIMS doctors visited Hyderabad in December 2015 to examine the kids but conveyed the need to study the case once again because of some complications in the surgery.
Politics is also at play, as there have been insinuations that the Niloufer hospital returned Rs 4 lakh, which was donated to them by ABN Andhra Jyothi channel for the twins treatment because of pressure from the ruling TRS government as ABN is seen to be pro-Chandrababu Naidu.
Dr. Suresh, Superintendent of Niloufer Hospital told The News Minute,
“In 2012, ABN Andhra Jyothi had organised a special initiative on 'Veena-Vani', asking for donations to the channel's bank account for their treatment.”
He added, ''ABN Andhra Jyothi channel had collected some money and given it to us, but our hospital Director of Medical Education (DME) rejected the donation, so we didn't accept the cheque and returned it to them.''
You can read our earlier story here.
As per latest reports, Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad has the necessary equipment to conduct intra-arterial digital subtraction angiography (DSA), which is the next step in the treatment, although no date has been finalized yet for the DSA.
Dr Suresh added, “After the DSA gets completed, a team of specialist doctors from AIIMS will examine the results and will proceed further. This is the only reason for the delay. Even the parents have given their consent for the surgery.”
Though Dr Suresh claims to be positive about this 'round of surgeries', it sounds way too similar to the promises made in the past.
Veena and Vani have been living in Niloufer hospital for eleven years. Each time the focus turns on them, politicians and doctors have dished out promises to them. Perhaps they would prefer the truth.
Note: This story first appeared in January 2016, and has been updated.