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Conjoined twins separated after surviving African jungle

SURVIVAL: Anick and Destin

A PAIR of conjoined twins, who against all odds were born naturally in the remote village of Muzombo, western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have survived following an epic 870-mile round trip to be separated.

Anick and Destin, two baby girls who were born naturally at 37 weeks on 23 August 2017, endured an incredible journey across gruelling terrain, and are now being monitored at Vanga Evangelical Hospital, under the care of Dr Junior Mudji.

Dr Mudji first met the twins on 30 August when they arrived at Vanga Hospital with their mother Claudine Mukhena and father Zaiko Munzadi at just one week old, having travelled for 15 hours through the jungle on the back of a motorbike - wrapped in a blanket. Their village is so remote, hospital staff hadn’t even heard of it.

Without the equipment or expertise to carry out the complex separation surgery in Vanga’s small hospital, Dr Mudji contacted a team of volunteer surgeons in the country’s capital Kinshasa, who perform operations on children born with malformations. Concerned that the fragile newborns may not survive another long and difficult journey, Dr Mudji’s team contacted Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a humanitarian non-profit airline operating in remote regions across the DRC.

MAF regularly fly to Vanga, and deliver medical equipment and personnel to the hospital using small Cessna and Pilatus aircraft - which are designed to land and take off in very remote and challenging terrain. Dr Mudji was delighted to learn that MAF could provide an emergency flight for the family.

Arriving in Vanga on Saturday 2 September, MAF Pilot Brett Reierson collected the young family and flew the 1.5-hour journey to Kinshasa, saving over 14 hours on treacherous roads. When they arrived in the capital, a medic collected the patients from the aircraft and rushed them for successful separation surgery at a Kinshasa clinic, which was performed by a team of volunteer surgeons.

Almost one month later, MAF Pilot Nick Frey flew the family back to Vanga, and the twins and mother were re-admitted to Vanga Hospital on Saturday 7 October. The family will be monitored for several weeks before facing the gruelling overland journey back to their remote village.

Dr Mudji, who is delighted the babies have survived said: ‘Thirty-seven-week-old, conjoined twins born naturally - it’s unheard of! When I was told MAF could help… it was great news for us.’

Pilot Brett Reierson said, ‘The natural delivery of conjoined twins would be rare enough in a western hospital. But for a mum and her babies to survive this type of birth in such a remote setting followed by the long and difficult journey across the jungle to be separated – it’s unbelievable! It was a privilege to be part of their story.’

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