Lakshmi is either revered as a goddess or shunned as a freak. Born with four arms and four legs in a tiny village called Arhariya in north Bihar, the two-year-old’s life has been anything but normal.
Her deformity makes it impossible for her to stand or walk, but doctors in Bangalore will perform a 40-hour surgery on Tuesday that might give her a chance.
She has extra limbs because she is joined to a parasitic twin, who stopped developing in her mother’s womb.
Lakshmi’s parents Shambhu and Poonam named her after the four-armed goddess of wealth, and it was their love for her that stopped them from selling Lakshmi to the highest bidder.
“We took her to a hospital in Delhi after her birth but some circus owners got to hear about her. They wanted to turn her into a freak show and offered us money, but we brought her back to the village,” says Shambhu, who has a farm in Bihar’s Terai region.
Too scared to take her to a hospital again, the couple hid her in the village until paediatric surgeon Sharan Patil from the Bangalore-based Sparsh Hospital heard of her and offered to operate for free. Along with the Sparsh team, surgeons and experts from Dr Devi Shetty’s Narayana Hrudalaya will participate in the surgery.
“Lakshmi’s condition is extremely rare. She is actually one of a pair of conjoined twins, but only one of the twins has a head. This type of conjoining is called ischiopagus, in which the twins are joined at the lower chest or abdomen down to the pelvis. Since two pairs of arms and legs have formed at either end of the two adjoining torsos, Lakshmi appears to have eight limbs,” explained Patil.
After reading about Lakshmi in the paper, Patil went to Patna looking for the girl. “Her parents were extremely motivated and were willing to go to great lengths to separate her from her parasitic twin. We decided to bring her to Bangalore and began conducting tests from October 3."
Over the next three weeks, Lakshmi went through a series of tests conducted by Patil and his team to prepare her for the surgery. It is scheduled at 7 am.
A team of 30 medics, including specialist surgeons from the fields of paediatrics, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, plastic and microvascular, anaesthesia and intensivist, will help Lakshmi stand on her own two feet.