Girl Born With Eight Limbs Thrives in India

Surgeons tied off connecting blood vessels, ensuring that Lakshmi's vital organs weren't damaged. After the parasite's functioning kidney was transplanted to Lakshmi, neurosurgeons began the dangerous separation of Lakshmi's spine where it was connected to the spine of the parasite.

"One [couldn't] make out where the spine of Lakshmi ended and then the other one started," Patil said. "So we erred on the side of safety, and preserved some part of the spine of the parasite."

At midnight, 16 hours into the operation, came the riskiest surgery of all. Doctors were finally ready to remove Lakshmi's conjoined, parasitic twin.

"It was a very critical and crucial phase because there were a lot of body fluid shifts, and the moment we tie off the blood vessels, there is a buildup of chemicals in the parasitic twin, which can become dangerous if they travel back into the host tissue. So we had to be pretty quick from that point on. ... Speed was of the essence at that point in time."

Another crucial phase in the reconstructive surgery was to bring the bones of Lakshmi's pelvis together so that they could support her vital organs.

Twenty-four hours after the surgery began, Patil finally was able to reassure Lakshmi's parents. "The operation was successful," he told them. "Lakshmi is healthy."

In her room, recovering from the surgery after sleeping soundly, Lakshmi began to open her eyes and move her fingers. For the first time, her parents saw the child who once had been the image of a goddess as an average 2-year-old, with two arms and two legs.

"Lakshmi had one strange look on her face, looking down at her own body," Patil said. "I don't know how to put it but … I almost felt that she was telling me, 'Doc, good job done.'"

Life With Four Limbs

When Lakshmi was released from the hospital a month after the surgery, the family took her to the desert state of Rajasthan, far from their village, where she began attending a school for disabled children.

During a school break, they returned to their village for a visit. Lakshmi is learning to raise herself upright and balance herself. She has begun to take her first steps.

"Now she can walk on her own," her mother said. "Her cousin comes, and they play the whole day long."

A member of a television crew that traveled to Bihar to videotape Lakshmi's progress in early June said that some of the villagers had grown resentful of the Tatma family, believing the Tatmas had benefited financially from the free medical care.

The family is not wealthy. Lakshmi's father, Shambu, works as a day laborer. When the Tatmas return to Rajasthan so that Lakshmi can continue attending the school for disabled children, he will work for the school.

Lakshmi will need additional surgery where her spine was separated from her parasitic twin. She also will need surgery on her feet, which were turned inward because of their positioning above the area where she was joined to the parasite.

A statue of Lakshmi, made by a village craftsman when she still had eight limbs, remains in the village. Some villagers told interviewers they still consider Lakshmi a goddess. Certainly, her parents do.

"I think for every parent the child is a goddess," Patil said.

Asked whether he believed there was a higher power involved in Lakshmi's story, he said, "It is the wishes of many people; it is the prayers of many people; it is the will of the child to live. ... Everything put together, to come together, it has to be some kind of divine intervention."

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