Conjoined twins who were expected to die after birth are settling into their primary school in Cardiff four years later.
Ibrahima Ndiaye, 50, brought his daughters Marieme and Ndeye from Senegal to London when they were seven months old to seek help from Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The twins have separate brains, hearts and lungs but share a liver, bladder, digestive system, and three kidneys.
Mr Ndiaye was told by doctors they wouldn’t survive long after their birth.
But the girls, now four, have defied the odds and are learning to stand as they settle into their new school.
‘When you look in the rear view mirror, it was an unachievable dream,’ Mr Ndiaye told the BBC.
‘From now, everything ahead will be a bonus to me. My heart and soul is shouting out loud, “Come on! Go on girls! Surprise me more!”.’
Marieme and Ndeye are at higher risk of catching Covid, but their father wanted them to start school for their development.
They are said to be learning well, ‘laughing a lot’ and making friends.
Despite their ‘Herculean achievements’, Marieme’s heart is weak and her life expectancy is poor, meaning if she dies her sister will also pass away.
Great Ormond Street surgeons considered attempting separation in 2019.
Mr Ndiaye faced the dilemma of saving one of his daughters but letting the other die – a risk he did not want to take.
Doctors have since discovered that the girls’ circulatory systems are more closely linked than previously thought, meaning neither would survive without the other and making separation impossible.
In a BBC documentary, The Conjoined Twins: An Impossible Decision which aired in 2019, Mr Ndiaye revealed that he had contacted medical professionals all over the world looking for a solution after the birth of his daughters.
He was eventually brought to the UK through funding from a charitable foundation run by Senegal’s first lady Marieme Faye Sall, before he sought asylum.
In March 2018, the family were moved by the Home Office to Cardiff and they now have discretionary leave to remain.
Mr Ndiaye has set up a foundation to raise awareness of his daughters’ condition. The family also want to help other children with complex health problems in the UK and in Africa get the support they need to live ‘independent and dignified lives’.
Marieme and Ndeye have been getting help from children’s’ hospice Ty Hafan in Sully, Vale of Glamorgan, where they have been learning what it feels like to stand using a special frame.
Their father described this as a breakthrough but said his hopes are ‘parallel’ to his fears.
‘All these achievements bring light and hopes for the future. But I know how fragile, complex and unpredictable their lives can be.’
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