RIYADH, 16 March 2004 — A team of 26 senior Saudi doctors together with more than 24 paramedics are to perform a rare operation to separate Filipino Siamese twins on March 20.

This follows instructions from Crown Prince Abdullah, deputy premier and commander of the National Guard. It is the eighth such operation to be conducted in Saudi Arabia and is likely to be broadcast live on the Net to millions of viewers.

“People will also have the option to log on www.ngha.med.sa to view the operation live and for more information about this rare medical procedure,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeea, chief executive officer of the National Guard Health Affairs, at a press conference here yesterday. Mariano A. Dumia, charge d’affaires at the Philippine Embassy, and a panel of senior surgeons and doctors also attended the briefing.

Explaining details of the separation procedure, Dr. Al-Rabeea said that a rehearsal would take place on March 17 at King Abdul Aziz Medical City. He said that Filipina conjoined twins Princess May and Princess Ann have been in the Medical City for three months and have undergone intensive diagnostic testing.

The separation will be carried out in 12 phases, which will be preceded by a thoracotomy of Princess May to remove a congenital abnormality in the middle lobe of the right lung. An experienced multidisciplinary team headed by Dr. Al-Rabeea will perform the operation.

He said that the twins, joined in the abdomen and pelvis, also share lower organs as well as distal bowel.

“The twins have two vaginas and uterus each with positional overlap (duplicated internal genitalia)”, he explained. The pelvis of the Filipina twins is significantly wide, he explained, requiring extensive restructuring. The twins are in a stable condition and now weigh a total of 8.6 kilograms.

They were born on Nov. 12 last year to a poor family in Barangay Obavo in Cebu Province.

Mother of the twins Karina Mazo, who was also present at the press conference, said that she had no words to express her gratitude to Crown Prince Abdullah. She said that she has left her four-year-old daughter back home in the care of her tailor husband Jomari. Karina and her sister Joelyn appealed to everyone who loves children to pray for the success of the operation.

Speaking on behalf of the Filipino community, Charge d’Affaires Dumia expressed deep appreciation and gratitude to the Saudi government.

“It demonstrates the close and cordial relations between the Philippines and the Kingdom and between the people of the two countries,” said the diplomat, who was accompanied by many other Filipino officials.

Asked whether the Kingdom’s experience in separating Siamese twins will be marketed in future, Dr. Al-Rabeea said that the team was not doing this operation for any material gain or publicity.

“This is a humanitarian gesture on the part of Crown Prince Abdullah,” said the CEO adding that the crown prince has ordered the separation of the twins at his personal expense. Doctors also refused to talk about the cost component. But they said that similar procedure to separate twins abroad can cost somewhere from SR3 million to SR8 million.

Last October, a medical team led by Dr. Rabeea separated Egyptian Siamese twins, the seventh such operation in Saudi Arabia and the fourth at the National Guard Hospital.

“Our experience in the field of separating Siamese twins is among the best in the world,” Dr. Rabeea said. Eight twins including Saudi, Sudanese, Malaysian and Egyptian twins were separated in the Kingdom following similar initiatives by Crown Prince Abdullah.

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