For Veena and Vani, conjoined twins from Nalgonda district in Telangana who have been fused from birth, the past 13 years have been an constant cycle of raised hopes and wrecked expectations. But now their hopes have suffered a possibly permanent defeat as doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) declared that the risk factors for a surgical separation of the twins are extremely high.
Dr C Suresh Kumar of Niloufer Hospital for Women and Children said, â€śThe AIIMS doctors have sent a detailed report to us saying that Veena and Vani canâ€™t be separated as separation could be highly dangerous and fatal for both.â€ť
He adds, â€śTheir report states that intricate neurological veins are intertwined between the two and the surgery would be highly risky. The twins share important blood vessels and due to this there were chances of death on the operating table.â€ť
This report from the AIIMS doctors is only the capstone on long years of uncertainty in Veenaâ€™s and Vaniâ€™s lives, despite the amount of attention their case has received from doctors.
The twins first appeared in the public gaze when an initial surgery, a step towards the eventual separation of the twins, was carried out in 2004 at the Guntur General Hospital. The successful initial surgery was widely reported and the twins received many political and bureaucratic visitors.
Then followed a succession of reputed medical visitors all called in to consult on the viability of completely separating Veena and Vani. These experts included Dr Ashish Mehta of Breach Candy Hospital, Dr Keith Goh of East Shore Hospital, Singapore, Dr David Dunaway and Dr Owase Jeelani from London, and finally a team of doctors from AIIMS.
In each case, highly hopeful initial reports finally ended in anti-climactic disappointments.
Meanwhile, soon after their first surgery, Veena and Vani were abandoned by their parents claiming poverty and inability to provide for the children, while agreeing to take care of them after their surgeries were completed. The twins were then placed in the care of the Guntur General Hospital and in 2006 moved to Niloufer Hospital in Hyderabad.
Since then Veena and Vani are staying in a special ward on the first floor of Niloufer hospital. For the last 10 years, they have been taken care of by three caretakers, with their education managed by a tutor.
Unaware of the complications of their situation, Veena and Vani hold onto dreams of becoming a scientist and an engineer, respectively.
But it seems that even this life of meagre joys may soon be taken away from them. The unit of the hospital that has thus far undertaken their care specialises in pediatric care of children under the age of 12, and the girls have now grown too old to be housed there, said Dr Suresh. â€śWe have told the parents to take them back or house them in an orphanage because as they are growing up, it will become difficult to take care of them,â€ť he said.
''Now it completely depends on the parents, they have asked for five daysâ€™ permission to decide the next step and then only we can decide,â€ť added Dr Suresh.
Veenaâ€™s and Vaniâ€™s parents have requested for support from the government as they still do not possess the financial resources to take care of the twin girls. Telangana Health Minister Laxma Reddy told the media on Thursday that the government will take care of Veena and Vani and will try to fulfill their needs.
In the past, even philanthropic efforts to help the children have been mired in controversy and uncertainty. The Aamoda Broadcasting Network, which had publicly raised funds for the care and treatment of the children, for example, came under fire for allegedly diverting away funds raised for the twins. Insinuations had also been raised against Niloufer Hospital for allegedly denying donations from ABN to the tune of Rs 4 lakh because of pressure from the TRS government against accepting money from the allegedly pro-TDP broadcast network.