8-Limbed Girl Recovering From Surgery

Sparsh Hospital, which has only been in operation for two years, was created to help the middle and lower classes of India to receive quality care. The hospital has taken unique approaches to execute this concept by cutting costs, including opening a facility on the outskirts of Bangalore, instead of the high-priced downtown. The hospital's foundation donated the cost of the surgery, estimated at $625,000.

Shambhu and Lakshmi's mother, Poonem, had tried to find medical help for their daughter, but were told surgery was not possible. The family struggled financially, particularly because only one parent could work while the other cared for Lakshmi, who was constantly running a fever. Survival rates for conjoined twins can be as low as 5 percent; doctors believed that Lakshmi would likely die in her teens without surgery.

In their village, which has just 150 homes and no electricity, Lakshmi's parents tried to give her as normal a life as possible. But in the region, villagers considered her to be the reincarnation of Laxmi, the multilimbed goddess of wealth. Some people even tried to buy Lakshmi to put her in the circus.

When Patil met the 2-year-old, he said he was unprepared for what he saw.

"Even though I'm a medical man and having seen the most grotesque things, it was quite shocking. I'd never seen anything in life like it before," he said. "The way she was moving around with that body, it was quite difficult and it was quite touching. Her older brother was running around and she was envying him."

About a week after the doctor's visit, the family traveled to Bangalore to prepare for the surgery.

For Lakshmi and her parents the trip to the hospital was the longest of their lives. When they arrived in Bangalore, they rode in a car for the first time. And Poonem, who is six months pregnant, received her first ultrasound, which indicated that her unborn child is healthy.

"We have tried to touch their lives, but it's been reversed now. We have become much enriched by having Lakshmi in our hospital," said Patil. "This is probably the best thing that's happened in my career. I'm able to reach out and help somebody who needed it most, and nothing could have pleased me more. It's a very nice feeling."

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