Doctors were recalled to the operating room early Wednesday to stem bleeding in one of the Mathibela conjoined twins 10 hours after they were separated in a rare operation.
Mphonyana, the smaller of the 16-month-old twins who were joined at the head, lost large quantities of blood during the seven-hour separation surgery Tuesday at Johannesburg's Baragwanath Hospital, hospital officials said.A spokesman said her sister, Mpho, was stable and both babies were off life-support systems.
Intensive care unit staff recalled chief neurosurgeon Robert Lipschitz and a plastic surgeon to stem bleeding in Mphonyana's surgical wound, a spokesman said. The baby was returned to intensive care 4 1/2 hours later.
Hospital staff said congratulatory messages poured in late Tuesday and early Wednesday, among them a call from American doctors who performed a similar operation on West Germany's Binder twins at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital last September.
After the operation, Mpho and Mphonyana slept in their own beds for the first time in their short lives.
Doctors announced the "successful separation" late Tuesday after more than 12 hours of preparation and surgery at the segregated Baragwanath Hospital on the fringe of Soweto black township.
The twins' mother, Sophie Mathibela, was ecstatic at the results of the intricate operation that involved separation of their skulls and brain membranes.
"I feel so happy, happy, happy," the 33-year-old domestic worker told reporters. "I want to sleep a little, pray and thank God for all he has done."
Hospital superintendent Dr. Chris Van Den Heever said: "It's been a long 16 months. Sometimes we have been down in the dumps and other times guardedly optimistic, but today is a most marvelous day at Baragwanath."
Now, he said, "we have two separate, lovely babies."
The operation began Tuesday with three hours of anesthesia, followed by the neurosurgical separation lasting 7 hours. Plastic surgeons then stitched the wounds for another 2 1/2 hours.
The twins, whose tribal names mean "Gift" and "Little Gift," were transferred to the intensive care unit to recuperate from the grueling operation.
Dr. Robert Lipschitz, chief neurosurgeon, said before the operation that sacrificing one twin for the life of the other had not been considered.
"The team is going to try to save them both," Lipschitz said Friday. "Other than being joined by the head, the sisters are totally different to one another, physically and psychologically."