The names Safa and Marwa are in the Islamic tradition referring to two mountains denoting a struggle in life. In our contemporary era, the names are of two baby girls, conjoined twins, one of the rarest of illnesses, who have just recently overcome a struggle.
The girls have seven elder siblings but their father died two months before they were born in a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Nineteen months have passed since their birth and after taking advice from all, their mother Zainab Bibi brought the girls to the UK for operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Over a hundred different people have been involved in this delicate operation with surgeon Noor ul Owase Jeelani who separated the girls head and plastic surgeon Prof David Dunaway who led the initiative to rebuild the girls head after separation.
We spoke to one of the team, Peter Bruton, a senior technical consultant in Navigation, Imaging and Robotics at Medtronic.
“I was called in by the Lead Surgery to help plan how we could navigate Surgical Instruments inside the brains. Typical this is a simple process, the patient gets a CT scan under a strict protocol that allows my Navigation machine to reconstruct it, and we then physically draw on the patient to match the virtual (on the machine) with the reality (patient),” Bruton told AboutIslam.
“However, because there were now 2 people scanned together. We had to adapt to process so to make it work accurately. Because the surgeon doesn’t have X-ray vision he must rely on where he is in the brain depending on what the machine and microscope are showing him. And therefore know where to cut.
“Other key decisions was the placement of the patient reference mark (mechanically fixed point from the machine, placed on the patient). This cannot mover or be I interfered with for the whole operation. So its placement is paramount.
“This was all practiced in a dry run with a 3D reconstruction of the children’s head before we did the 1st of 4 surgeries.
“We only needed navigation in the first surgery where we separated the blood vessel shared by the children and put an artificial boundary between there 2 brains.”
Speaking of the team at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Peter said, “G.O.S.H is a hospital whose staff consists of all the right people, in right place, at the right time, every time. No matter what the team selected is, for a case, they all have one and an only common goal, do their best, for the best of the patient with a genuine smile on their faces.”
A BBC report observes that there perhaps 1 in every 2,500,000 births are of conjoined twins, most of them do not survive longer than a day.
Peter added, “For this particular procedure with these particular patients’ conditions, this was attempted before only once. 50 odd years ago I believe but I’m not 100% on. However, the methodology used and discovered, especially from my side of this will be a fantastic procedurally outline for the future and can be fine-tuned from here!”
Asked whether this experience affected his spirituality, Peter shared, “I believe there is a higher being but I for one believe I’m too stupid to try and comprehend it. We could question why this condition occurred in the first place, or we could admire the amazing strength and courage of the children’s mother had to get her children through all this, we can praise heroic actions of the Staff of GOSH. What I saw in this journey was human beings, consistently doing the best they could for 2 amazing human beings. That is the most important part of my personal faith and it drives me to keep acting that way.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 5, Owase made a poignant observation, “At 19 months they had been together their entire lives since they were born, but they had not seen each other. Once they were separated it was very clear that they needed to be physically close to each other all of the time. Gradually they acknowledged each other’s presence and started playing with each other.”
When asked how they would play with each other, Owase continued, “We placed them in the same bed with their hands touching and that seemed to calm them down. And once they got past this stage they would look at each other and pull one another’s clothes, and hair. Typical sisters after that.”
“This Muslim couple named their twins Safa and Marwa, and that’s literally perfect, I cry.”
– Sophia A
“Overwhelmed after reading the case of babies #Safa and #Marwa.
Excellent care and treatment provided by GOSH who have successfully performed major operations to separate the twins. May the Almighty grant the babies the best of health and a life of happiness”
– Adnan M
“Reading this I was just thinking of the mother who has had to deal with so much. Her husband died when she was pregnant and then she had to deal with conjoined twins. Then all the stress of the surgery. This is where I take my hat off to medical science – just miraculous what they can do these days!”
– Humera K
“May Allah SWT bless them both long healthy life.”
– Munaza M
“May Allah SWT increase their life and grant them great health, love happiness, taqwa strong i.aan and the best of both worlds. May Allah always protect and keep them safe Ameen thumma Ameen”
– Shamz A