Baby born with 4 legs, 2 spines thrives after miraculous surgery

Baby born with 4 legs, 2 spines thrives after miraculous surgery

The outlook is “excellent” for a baby girl recovering after a complex surgery to remove her parasitic twin.

Now 10 months old, baby Dominique was born in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, with a parasitic rachipagus twin. Their spines were conjoined, and the bottom half of the underdeveloped twin’s body – including waist, legs and feet – protruded from Dominique’s neck and back until her risky but successful surgery March 8 at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

Dominique, who came to the U.S. for specialized medical care, is recovering after the surgery with her host family in Chicago while waiting to return home to her parents and siblings.

“When we met sweet Dominique … we thought about her family, far far away, trusting us, trusting the doctors that she had never met, trusting the escort that flew her halfway across the world,” said foster mom Nancy Swabb, a Chicago resident. “There was a bond right away.”

Without separation, Dominique’s little heart and lungs would continue functioning for two people and, thus, shorten her lifespan. She also would have suffered from severe balance issues as she matured.

“The fact that the twins were conjoined at the spine makes Dominique’s condition exceedingly unique and rare,” said Dr. John Ruge, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “It also made the separation surgery complex. But it was crucial to give this beautiful baby girl the chance to live a long and normal life.”

A charity organization that helps children around the world receive medical treatment in the U.S. reached out to Dr. Ruge, specifically for his expertise in this specialty.

Five surgeons – specializing in pediatric neurosurgery, plastic, orthopedic and general surgery – collaborated for weeks to prepare for surgery ahead of Dominique’s arrival. The team created a model of Dominique’s two spines and developed a systematic approach to address the various neurosurgical, orthopedic and plastic surgery issues.

“There were many risks involved with detaching the parasitic twin, the biggest of which included paralysis, spinal destabilization and closure of a large defect,” said Dr. Frank Vicari, pediatric plastic/reconstructive surgeon. “There also was a chance of impacting shared functions, such as the urinary function. Before going into the operating suite, our interdisciplinary team identified where the dangers would be and how we would minimize them. That way we were prepared for anything that could occur.

“And I’m pleased to say the surgery was a success and Dominique has an excellent prognosis.”

Working closely together in the surgical suite, the surgeons removed the remnants of the conjoined twin from Dominique’s back in six hours. The other three surgeons were Dr. Robert Givens Kellogg, pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Jordan Steinberg, pediatric plastic/reconstructive surgeon and Dr. Eric Belin, pediatric and adult orthopedic spine surgeon.

Other physicians, including pediatricians, radiologists, nephrologists, anesthesiologists, intensivists and geneticists consulted on the case. In all, more than 50 clinicians provided the baby’s care in the operating room, pediatric intensive care unit, and on the pediatric unit.

Dominique is expected to return to her family in the Ivory Coast by early to mid April.

“She was so sweet and so ready to accept love and be affectionate and show affection. We knew that she was loved,” Swabb said. “And so we thought every day, every moment about her family waiting for her return. I just feel really honored to be her family for a little while. “

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  1. Beautiful story.

  2. Why wasn’t her family brought with her? It’s not healthy to separate kids that young from their parents that long, especially during a traumatic event like an extended hospital stay.

  3. Beautiful story! I’m so glad you were willing to help this precious child and her family. Thank you. This is what humanity should look like. Again, thank you!

  4. Charlene Tasker March 22, 2017 at 1:48 pm · Reply

    It’s real life stories like this that make me soooo proud to work for Advocate! We love you Dominique and wish you health and happiness all the days of your life!

  5. Tracey Stills

    May God bless the doctors and staff who completed this surgery. God definitely was in the operating room with this little beautiful girl. Blessings to the host family for being the little angel she needs while recuperating.

  6. Kudos to the doctors and the staff for performing a complex operation. And God bless the wonderful host family for their big hearts!

  7. Nancy, I pray that God Almighty overflows your Blessings. You are truly a remarkable person!!!

  8. Rare is when you see something like this. Though in this case there luckily wasn’t the tougher choice of which twin to save because only one would be bale to to survive as the undeveloped fully. It happens when both are able but one makes it and other bigger chance of not. There are extremely gifted and amazing doctor’s, nurse’s, assistant’s, as takes a whole crew to do proper, good job & bright future for this happy bouncy baby. Happy to hear positive over all of today’s not so positive but negative event’s. The entire team deserves a good pat on the shoulder.

  9. Asere Victorine March 26, 2017 at 2:38 am · Reply

    Story like this will make me keep my family and my self at advocate for like. I am proud to be an advocate associate and customer. Blessing to the brains behind starting/initiating such HELP. Thanks to the host of the little girl; not forgetting the surgeons. Who can define the word HUMANITY more that what is done in his clip? Well done Advocate Health Care.

  10. What a proud moment for Advocate with such a talented team of doctors, nurses, and social workers. What a blessing that this beautiful little girl made it through this surgery and has a host family that is looking out for her far away from home. So proud to work for Advocate !! Amazing that this little angel will be able to return home by early to mid April. A very touching story that gives all of us faith in humanity!!

  11. God is so amazing! Look at the amount of talent he placed in one healthcare system? That all of these genius medical minds were able to come together on one accord to bless this child with a long, normal life! Thank God for all of the doctors, nurses, and others that had a hand in making this surgery a success. I am so proud to be an Advocate employee. Absolutely amazing!

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About the Author

Lisa Parro
Lisa Parro

Lisa Parro, health enews contributor, is a content manager for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. A former journalist, Lisa has been in health care public relations since 2008 and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs.