When Riddhi and Siddhi Pawar, conjoined twins with a common urinary bladder and vagina, were brought to the Parel-based Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital on May 10, 2013, nurses working in the ward confided that they were scared to see the babies, fearing if they would survive.
Over a year later, however, after the sisters have undergone multiple surgeries for separation and have spent over a year in a room allotted to them in the hospital, the hospital staff is not only confident that the one-year-olds will sail through the rough tide, but have also started considering the twins a part of the hospital.
The babies, christened by the hospital’s doctors, leap into the arms of all nurses and doctors, but rarely show any sign of recognition of their parents, who seldom visit them after their mother Shalu Pawar delivered another girl recently.
Riddhi and Siddhi were delivered at their home in a remote village called Olawa near Panvel last year with the help of their grandmother, a mid-wife, who has assisted in deliveries of over 20 women in the vicinity. They were attached from waist-down with a fused uterus and urinary bladder. NGO Pratham admitted the twins in Wadia three days after their birth.
“Everyone in the hospital knows the twins now. They also get gifts for the girls,” said Dr Ashwini Jogade, medical superintendent of the hospital, who recently got a pink hair-band for the twins.
Shobha Gaikar (50), who was appointed by NGO Pratham in March 2014 for the twins’ care-taking, said, “I live with them day and night. After their mother could not come to meet them because of her pregnancy, I started doing their chores. I bathe them, give them food, take them for physiotherapy and then for an evening stroll in their pram.”
The twins have already undergone two surgeries, the first to create a separate outlet for urine and excreta (called colostomy) that happened last year on May 13 and the second to surgically separate them, which took place on January 17 this year for eight hours.
On June 27 this year, Riddhi underwent a full-day surgery called osteotomy to reconstruct the alignment of her pelvis. Siddhi will undergo the same procedure once her sister recovers.
While Riddhi is currently recuperating in the hospital’s ICU, Siddhi, the ‘mischievous one’ between the two, gets their ‘mausi’ (Gaikar) all for herself to play with. “Siddhi is more playful, while Riddhi is usually calm. Siddhi, however, is wary of strangers and does not go in anyone’s arms unlike Riddhi,” said Gaikar.
Recently, when their father Arun Pawar visited the girls, Siddhi got scared and refused to go near him, said the ward’s nurse Jayshree Pawar. “The girls are now Wadia hospital’s daughters. They have become a part of all our lives,” she said while patting Siddhi, who played with her chain in her arms.
The twins have a tiny room adorned with toys. They also have an attached terrace where Gaikar takes them during the evening. Gaikar, who recently gave the girls a new haircut, says affectionately, “My daughters live in Nallasopara. But I hardly visit them now. Even if I go to meet them, I quickly return back after lunch because Riddhi and Siddhi need me.”
Gaikar, who receives Rs 1,200 per month and hospital’s food, says that the girls rarely leave her side and play with her every morning. “I pull their beds close to my bed at night and sleep with them alternatively,” she said.