An insight into the amazing world of conjoined twins.
Kicking off tonight at 9pm, ITV is to air a two-part documentary on how families cope with the extraordinary circumstance of being parents to the rarest of babies – conjoined twins who make up one out of every 200,000 live births.
Narrated by Sheridan Smith, Extraordinary Twins features three-year-old twins Callie and Carter from Idaho, who are fused from the chest down with two legs between them, and whose parents Nick and Chelsea Torres only have a few months left to decide whether to opt for separation.
Cameras follow the work of leading British doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital as they try to separate conjoined twins over four nail-biting operations. And the programme explores the extraordinary lives of the twins still joined together around the world, including Krista and Tatiana who share so much of their brains they can see out of each other’s eyes.
In the first episode Nick and Chelsea face an impossible decision – to keep Callie and Carter joined at the sternum together – or to separate them by putting them through complex surgery with the risk of losing one or both girls. To help them make their decision, the family head on an emotional journey to meet other conjoined twins and their parents.
Chelsea also has a fear that if they don’t separate their twins, when they are older Callie and Carter may come to resent them. The family travels to California to meet Art and Aida who faced the same dilemma but opted for separation despite the risks in a bid to give their twins – now six – a more independent life.
Ideally twins are separated below the age of two but conjoined twins have been separated at four years old. As Callie and Carter approach this birthday, time is running out for Nick and Chelsea to decide which way to turn.
Fatma and Omer from Turkey have 17 month old twins, called Yigit and Derman, who are joined at the head – known as craniopagus twins. With the help of a charity Gemini Untwined – set up by their surgeons – to pay for the million pound treatment, they’ve brought Yigit and Derman to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London – one of the very few hospitals in the world with the skill to separate them.
These are the rarest type of conjoined twins – only five percent are linked in this way. Craniofacial surgeon Professor David Dunaway and Paediatric Neurosurgeon Mr Owase Jeelani and their large team will need four complex and risky operations to complete the separation which will be spread over a period of nearly two months.