After 10 years of hope, separation surgery has now been practically ruled out because the risk factors are too high.

Two girls their hopes and dreams In conversation with Hyderabad conjoined twins Veena-Vani
news Human Interest Tuesday, January 03, 2017 - 15:47

For over a decade, a room inside Hyderabad’s Niloufer hospital has been home to 14-year-old conjoined twins, Veena and Vani.

On Monday, the twins sat on an L-shaped bed in their new abode, a state home at SR Nagar in the city. The state home had taken care to make them comfortable, making sure to use blue bedsheets, the twins’ favourite colour.

But Veena and Vani were missing the familiar faces of the nurses and doctors at Niloufer.

“We were there for a very long time; it’s a big change for us. The hospital and people there were part of our lives, they were our friends,” Veena says with a sweet smile. “I am making new friends in my new home,” she quickly adds.

Veena and Vani, born in Nalgonda district, went through the first stage of separation surgery in December 2004 at a Guntur hospital. However, further stages of separation did not proceed, despite repeated consultations with specialists.

Soon after their surgery, the sisters were abandoned by their parents, who could not afford to take care of them. The twins were then looked after by hospital staff in Guntur until 2006, when Niloufer Hospital became their home.

Priyanka (name changed), a friend who has become close to the twins over the last two months, says, that Veena and Vani do not see their parents often. “Their parents hardly call or meet them. Today they are wearing the green dresses that their mother gifted them a few months ago,” says Priyanka.

After the two girls were shifted to the state home, their parents visited them on Monday evening, says Vijaya, one of the officials at the home. “They complained that they were not informed the conjoined twins were being shifted to the state home,” Vijaya tells TNM.

So, when Veena and Vani talk about their past, it’s Niloufer Hospital and its staff that they bring up most fondly. “We will miss them, they took care of us. We gifted them hand-made greeting cards as a token of love,” they declare.

For the girls, who have lived with the possibility of being surgically separated for many years, the hope has now dimmed. Although multiple doctors brought in by successive governments repeatedly claimed that the twins would be separated, no specialist has yet committed themselves to undertaking the surgery, as the risk factors are too high.

“But they don’t want be separated, they told me once,” says Priyanka.

“They are inseparable, not because they are conjoined, but because of their love and bonding,” she says.

Veena and Vani have been together for so long that they can even complete each other’s sentences. But while they have their share of common interests, they are different persons too.

“I love to paint,” says Veena. She considers herself the talkative twin, and calls Vani the one who “prefers to observe and listen”.

As her sister talks enthusiastically, Vani finds it difficult to watch us. So, she peeks at us using a rectangular mirror.

While Veena loves to paint, Vani prefers to read and write, and has written several poems.

Where the two completely agree, though, is on their favourite game – “Chess!” the girls exclaim together.

Priyanka adds that the girls are great players, saying, “I don’t think any of us can beat them.”

Of course, while they cherish the love they share, like any other siblings, the sisters have their fair of quibbles about each other.

“She talks all day, sometimes it is irritating.  But I am used to it now. She is my best friend after all,” Vani says.

Veena quickly counters, "She snores at night, sometimes I struggle to sleep." They burst out laughing, even as Vani swears she is a quiet sleeper.

Vani also says that her sister is her most straightforward critic, who has helped her improve her writing in many ways.

"Many people say, ‘Oh you write really well’, but Veena is very critical about it. If she doesn't like a poem, she will just say it. But I am still confused, about whether that is a good thing or not," she laughs. 

People caring for Veena and Vani find both girls extremely clever and smart. “They are both bright kids. They love reading books in different languages like Hindi, Telugu and English,” says one of the officials at the home.  

While doctors have practically given up on separating them, that hasn’t stopped them from having distinct dreams.

Vani wants to grow up and become a scientist, she says shyly.

“I want to become a software engineer. I will work in an IT company, I know I’ll achieve that,” Veena pipes up immediately.

At the state home, staff from the Niloufer Hospital are scheduled to continue weekly visits, to check up and keep track of the twins’ health, says Vijaya.

Doctors say that with the chances of separating them falling, Veena and Vani have a difficult life ahead, and their hopes for growing up and living their dreams are at risk.

Priyanka says the sisters know about the risks, but don’t want to talk much about them.

Meanwhile, every effort is being made to make a warm and comfortable home for Veena and Vani at the state home. “We are installing a TV for them, they love watching Doremon and Shinchan,” Vijaya says.

And the girls are happy for the increased freedom they can have here. “Yesterday, we went out to the park in front of the hostel. It was a great experience. Though, in the hospital, we sometimes used to go out, we could not expect them to be free for us every time. But here we can ask them at any time to help us go out,” Vani says.


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