Conjoined twins, four, settling into Cardiff primary school

Conjoined twins who were expected to die after birth have defied the odds by starting primary school four years later.

Ibrahima Ndiaye, 50, brought his daughters Marieme and Ndeye from Senegal to the UK when they were seven months old in 2017 to seek help from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The twins have separate brains, hearts and lungs but share a liver, bladder, digestive system, and three kidneys, and Ibrahima was told by doctors they wouldn’t survive long after their birth.

However the pair have been progressing well and settling into their Cardiff primary school, which their father says is a ‘Herculean achievement’ and an unfathomable thought when his daughter’s were born.

Conjoined twins Marieme and Ndeye Ndiaye (pictured) were expected to die after their birth, but have defied the odds by starting primary school four years later

Conjoined twins Marieme and Ndeye Ndiaye (pictured) were expected to die after their birth, but have defied the odds by starting primary school four years later

Speaking to BBC News, he said: ‘When you look in the rear view mirror, it was an unachievable dream.’

‘From now, everything ahead will be a bonus to me. My heart and soul is shouting out loud, ‘Come on! Go on girls! Surprise me more!’

The twins have had to fit schooling in between hospital visits, but are said to have made plenty of friends, and have been enjoying their lessons.

At Tŷ Hafan Children’s Hospice the sisters have been learning what it feels like to stand with a special frame gives which helps them be upright and build leg strength.

The pair have been progressing well and settling into their Cardiff primary school, which their father says is a ‘Herculean achievement’

Ibrahima Ndiaye, 50, (pictured) brought his daughter’s from Senegal to the UK when they were seven months old in 2017 to seek help from Great Ormond Street Hospital

Despite the pair continuing to surprise doctors, Marieme’s heart is weak and her life expectancy is poor, meaning if she dies her conjoined sister will also pass away

What are conjoined twins?

Conjoined twins occur when siblings have their skin or internal organs fused together. It affects around one in 200,000 live births.

Conjoined twins are caused by a fertilised egg beginning to split into two embryos a few weeks after conception, but the process stops before it is complete.

The most common type is twins joined at the chest or abdomen. Separation surgery success depends on where the twins are joined.

Doctors can only tell which organs the siblings share, and therefore plan surgery, after they are born.

Omphalopagus twins are joined near the bellybutton and often share a liver but generally do not share a heart.

Craniopagus twins are joined at the back, top or side of the head, but not the face.

Ibrahima Ndiaye, 50, (pictured) brought his daughter's from Senegal to the UK when they were seven months old in 2017 to seek help from Great Ormond Street Hospital

Earlier this year Safa and Marwa Ullah, from Pakistan, who were joined at the head were separated at Great Ormond Street in London.

More than 100 staff members treated the girls in a series of operations over four months which took 55 hours.

At least one twin survives 75 per cent of the time when they are separated.

Sources: Mayo Clinic and University of Maryland Medical Center

Last year, Great Ormond Street surgeons considered attempting separation however Ibrahima eventually decided against it, as the procedure meant one of his daughters would not live.

In BBC documentary, The Conjoined Twins: An Impossible Decision, which aired last year, father-of-six Ibrahima faced the dilemma of saving one of his daughters but letting the other die.

During one of the meetings with surgeon Dr Brierley explains to Ibrahima what will happen if he doesn’t separate his daughters.

He said: ‘Marieme’s dying process will be Ndeye’s dying process – it isn’t possible to stop that or change it … [And] it won’t be an option to separate them once Marieme starts to die.’

Speaking of his daughter’s bravery in the documentary, Ibrahima said: ‘When it comes to what you might call bravery, I cannot describe myself as brave.

‘All the credit is for the girls. I’m not the one who is experiencing the condition.’

Ultimately, Ibrahima decided he could not separate the girls and know he caused the death of Marieme.

In the documentary Ibrahima revealed that he had contacted medical professionals all over the world looking for a solution after the birth of his daughters before Great Ormond Street Hospital were able to help him.

He said: ‘When I was trying to find a solution for the girls from Senegal it wasn’t easy because the contacts I had all over the world, it was just there is nothing we can do.

‘[They said] don’t put too much hope in the girls it is just a matter of weeks. They have no hope of surviving with their condition.

‘But when I got in touch with Great Ormond Street Hospital, it was the first time in a hospital I heard you can come so that we can see what we can do.’

Ibrahima and his daughters have been given discretionary leave to remain in the UK so that they could continue to receive treatment at Great Ormond Street.

The family now live in a flat close to Cardiff City Centre.

The pair have been progressing well and settling into their Cardiff primary school, which their father says is a 'Herculean achievement'

Ibrahima has since set up a foundation in his daughter’s name called ‘Conjoined Destiny’ to help raise awareness of their condition and to help others who may be suffering with similar complications.

The family wish to help other children with complex health problems in the UK and in Africa, to get the practical help they need to live ‘independent and dignified lives’.

They also wish to offer financial support to both Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity and Tŷ Hafan, which provides Ibrahima with short periods of respite, and an around the clock practitioner for the family.

Charities are facing unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Ibrahima has urged the public to help in any way they can.

In an interview with the Mirror, he said: ‘Ty Hafan is a second family for me and I know that they are relying on people’s generosity and funding.’

‘Without Ty Hafan I don’t think we would make it through the pandemic. It’s not only care and support for the girls, there’s psychological support for myself because I’m in a difficult situation as a single dad.’

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