After weeks of recovery following her complex and rare surgery in Chicago, an infant girl born with four legs and two spines was reunited with her family in Africa last week.
Known affectionately to many in the city as "Baby Dominique," the 11-month-old girl arrived at her home in the Ivory Coast, west Africa Thursday in a heartwarming and emotional reunion with her mother, father and three sisters.
“I never thought that I’d see my daughter like this, today,” Dominique’s mother said. “It’s really a miracle. I want to thank all the surgeons who did a great job. And also thank you to the American people who helped my little Dominique, who allowed her to have a normal life, like other children.”
Young Dominique came to Chicago with an extremely rare parasitic conjoined twin. Doctors say the bottom half of her not-fully-developed twins’ body was protruding from the infant’s neck and back.
“It’s very rare because it was attached at the back of her spine,” said Dr. John Ruge, a pediatric neurosurgeon. “It was as if the twin from the waist down had been attached to the back of Dominique’s neck and there was a pelvis and bladder and functional legs that moved and feet coming out the back of Dominique’s neck. This was very dangerous for Dominique.”
Ruge said the parasitic twin caused Dominique’s heart and lungs to do the work for two bodies and could have ultimately paralyzed her.
The child was brought to Chicago in February with the help of an organization called Children’s Medical Missions West and has been living with a host family while doctors at Advocate Children’s Hospital meticulously studied her case.
“It’s really hard to even put a number on how rare it is,” said Dr. Robert Kellogg.
Despite her condition, her host family said the child had a bubbly personality and was a “very happy baby” when she arrived in the U.S.
“If you can say love at first sight I think that’s true for us,” said Nancy Swabb, who had been caring for Dominique during her time in the city.
After weeks of planning, on March 8, Dominique underwent a six-hour surgery that involved five surgeons and 50 clinicians.
“The surgery went very well,” said Kellogg. “There were no complications. We expect her to make a full recovery and live an essentially normal life from here on.”
Doctors said Dominique is now “essentially a normal baby” and are confident she can go on to live a healthy life.
“It is awesome to see Dominique back home in the care of her family,” Ruge said. “It is the perfect ending to her journey to the United States. It is also a great beginning for her new life in the Ivory Coast. I’m so proud of our surgical team and the impact we have had on little Dominique’s life. It is why we do what we do every day.”