Jaga and Balia, from Odisha, India, are just over two years old, but they’ve already been through what will likely be the most harrowing experience of their lives.
They’re Craniopagus twins, meaning they were born joined at the head, and they underwent India’s first-ever procedure to separate a pair of twins as unique as they are, according to the Indian Express.
According to the Express, there have been only 60 such surgeries worldwide since 1973. Conjoined twins occur once every 200,000 births, with a survival rate somewhere between five and 25 percent, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Craniopagus twins are the most rare conjoined twins, accounting for two percent of all conjoined twins, according to the Washington Post. They also share a vein that carries blood back from the brain to their separate hearts.
That made the 18-hour surgery to separate Jaga and Balia all the more harrowing. The 28-month-olds were separated in phases, in a procedure completed on October 26 by a team of 30 doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Science in Dehli.
On Wednesday, according to the Times of India, Jaga was taken off of his ventilator, gained consciousness and responded to doctors’ prompts. Balia remained on breathing assistance and likely will have to stay in the ICU for days longer than his brother.
AIIMS director Randeep Guleria told the Indian Express that separation alone did not mean the twins were out of the woods, and that the next 18 days would be critical for determining if the surgery was a success.