A 10-month-old baby born with four legs and two spines is recovering well after undergoing a complex and risky medical procedure in Chicago, doctors say.
Young Dominique came to Chicago from the Ivory Coast in West Africa 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 has been caring for Dominique since her arrival.
The Swabbs said the decision to take in the child was made quickly, with Dominique arriving at their home about a week after they learned of her case.
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“I saw a picture of Dominique with her extra limbs and one concern that we had before we met her was what can she wear?” Swabb said.
The family later learned Dominique had difficulties balancing and sitting up because of the added weight from the extra limbs.
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.”
Dominique continues to recover at her host family’s Edgebrook home. Doctors say once the recovery process is complete, the infant can return home to her family in Africa.
“She is about 2 pounds lighter and she sits up and she’s raising her hands and she reaches for things and she’s doing really well,” Swabb said.
Doctors said Dominique is now “essentially a normal baby” and are confident she can go on to live a healthy life.
“I think it is very unique but it was a unique child that brought us together,” Kellogg said.