Germany: Mennonite Couple Face Critical Situation:- Siamese Twins to be Separated

Hamburg/Germany | 27.04.2004 | idea/APD | International

An evangelical couple in Germany is facing a life-and-death-situation. Their two daughters, Lea and Tabea, are Siamese twins. This summer, Ben Carson, an American pediatric neurosurgeon and expert in separating conjoined twins, will attempt to separate the two children, grown together at their skulls. For reasons of personal Christian faith, abortion was never an option for parents Nelly and Peter, reported German reporter Frank Ochmann in an interview with "idea television", a news program broadcast on the digital channel Bible TV. Ochmann works as a journalist for the magazine "Stern" in Hamburg.

After the evangelical news agency "idea" got to know about the case they informed the mass circulation magazine, which has published an exclusive story and set up a fund to help finance the delicate surgery.

The parents Nelly and Peter are ethnic Germans from Russia, living in a West German town. They prefer to remain anonymous because they want to avoid undue publicity.

The twins are eight months old and immobile because they are grown together at a 180-degree-angle. According to Ochmann a separation seems inevitable. The parents, he says, are looking after the girls in an admirable way.

But they find it difficult to cope, as children of that age begin to "discover the world". The parents Nelly and Peter belong to a Mennonite church, which is supporting them with practical help and through prayers.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson (born in 1953), who will lead a medical team to separate the German children, is director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and professor of neurosurgery, plastic surgery, oncology, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore (Maryland/USA). He is the youngest U.S. doctor to hold such a position and a devoted Seventh Day Adventist Christian.

As a surgeon, he first received world-wide attention in 1987 for his ground-breaking leadership of a medical team which, in Germany, was the first to separate occipital craniopagus twins - twins joined at the back of the head. In 1997, he lead a team of South African physicians in the first successful separation of vertically conjoined twins-twins joined at the tops of the head. The pioneering use of 3-D imagery of the infant boys' brains and skulls enabled Dr. Carson to practice "virtual surgery" before the actual operation, thus contributing to its success. He has refined the techniques for hemispherectomy, a radical brain surgery to stop intractable seizures, and has developed, along with the Hopkins plastic surgery division, a craniofacial program to help children who need combined neurosurgical and plastic surgical reconstruction.

According to Frank Ochmann the cost of the separation surgery will run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is not yet clear whether the German health insurance will pay up. Doctors were obliged to mention the possibility of an abortion for medical reasons, but the parents refused. "The parents wanted to accept what God had given to them," Ochmann reported.

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