A Muslim doctor from London has spoken of his pride and joy at helping separate Jewish Israeli conjoined twins just over a week ago, saying it illustrates that “from a doctor’s point of view, we’re all one.”
Staff at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba successfully completed the operation on the twins conjoined at the head, and said that the babies are now likely to grow up to live normal lives.
The medical team managed this despite never having performed such a surgery, which involved complex on-the-spot decisions regarding which blood vessel to give to which twin, and assessing in real-time the impact that immediate decisions were having on the functioning of the brains.
Now, the man who brought the experience to the table has told his story to The Times of Israel — and said it should serve as a reminder that medicine transcends all divisions.
Dr. Noor Ul Owase Jeelani, a pediatric neurosurgeon at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, has performed four other separation surgeries on twins who were conjoined at the head with fused skulls, intertwined brains, and shared blood vessels. He and his colleague, Professor David Dunaway, are seen as the world’s experts on such cases.
Jeelani directs a nonprofit, Gemini Untwined, to plan and perform such operations. When doctors at Soroka needed to prepare for the operation, they reached out to him. He agreed, for the first time, to operate outside the UK.
He said that the fact that a Kashmir-born Muslim doctor scrubbed up alongside an Israeli team to help a Jewish family was a reminder of the universal nature of medicine.
“It was a fantastic family that we helped,” he stated. ”As as I’ve said all my life, all children are the same, whatever color or religion,” he said. “The distinctions are man-made. A child is a child. From a doctor’s point of view, we’re all one.”
He found the family’s delight at the success of the operation deeply moving.
“There was this very special moment when the parents were just over the moon,” he stated. “I have never in my life seen a person smile, cry, be happy, and be relieved at the same time. The mother simply couldn’t believe it, we had to pull up a chair to help her to calm down.”
Jeelani’s involvement with conjoined twins started in 2017, when a neurosurgeon from Peshawar, Pakistan, asked him to operate on identical conjoined twins, Safa and Marwa, born three months earlier to a woman from rural northern Pakistan.
He raised the money from a Pakistani oil trader called Murtaza Lakhani and, with Dunaway, successfully performed the operation, after hundreds of hours of preparation. He went on to establish Gemini Untwined, and perform more surgeries.
He worked for months on the Israeli surgery.
“We’ve been involved right from the start, talking to the team in Israel and planning it with them over a period of six months,” he said.
Jeelani added: “This latest surgery fulfills a key objective of our charity, namely, to empower local teams abroad to undertake this complex work, successfully utilizing our experience, knowledge, and skills gained over the past 15 years with our previous four sets of twins.”