London surgeon who helped save conjoined twins in Brazil reunites with them for first time

Dr Gabriel Mufarrej said the decision to go for surgery had been driven by the twin’s mum and dad, ITV News' Martha Fairlie reports

When Brazilian conjoined twins Bernardo and Arthur Lima were separated in one of the most complex surgeries ever performed, they made headlines across the world. On ITV's Good Morning Britain they were reunited for the first time with one of the London surgeons who changed their lives. Speaking from Rio de Janeiro, Great Ormond Street Hospital pediatric neurosurgeon Professor Noor ul Owase Jeelani said he had always been hopeful the surgeries would be successful, despite some medics suggesting it was impossible. Sat alongside the twins’ parents, Adriely and Antonio Lima, and Dr Gabriel Mufarrej who has cared for the twins at Rio De Janeiro's Paulo Niemeyer State Brain Institute since their birth, he said the decision to go for surgery had been driven by the twin’s mum and dad. "These are very difficult decisions to make. And fundamentally the lead is taken by the parents," Professor Noor ul Owase Jeelani said. "Dr Gabriel here was told not to give up by the parents," he added.

Brazilian twins Bernardo (top) and Arthur Lima who were successfully separated Credit: Gemini Untwined

Dr Gabriel Mufarrej, Head of Paediatric Surgery and one of the key surgeons involved, "This was the most challenging procedure of my life. At that time, their mother said, 'Please, doctor, don’t give up on my boys.' It was very difficult." Professor Jeelani, who flew from London to Brazil for the operation and has not seen them again before now, told how the operation had been attempted a number of times before. He said: "Our experience over the past 20 years, of having undertaken five previous sets of separation, gave us that level of knowledge and experience to be able to look at this difficult case. And certainly, in our opinion, that separation would be possible."

Gemini Untwined, the charity he founded, was also involved.

Now four, the twins had surgery when they were three, in June 2022. Eight months on Professor Jeelani said they were making good progress - but warned there was still a long way to go, as they learn to walk, and use their arms and legs separately. He said: "We wish we’d been able to separate the boys a little earlier. There’s certainly enough evidence that states that if we achieve separation under age one, that recovery and rehabilitation is so much easier and quicker. So the boys, although they are making good progress, still have lots of challenges." The twins underwent seven operations in Rio de Janeiro in total - with the final two totalling 44 hours. Almost 100 medics were involved.

From 2022, Noor ul Owase Jeelani with Bernardo (left) and Arthur, and parents Adriely and Antonia Lima Credit: Gemini Untwined

It was one of the most complex separation processes ever completed, according to the charity which funded it - Gemini Untwined - which Mr Jeelani founded in 2018. Ahead of the life-changing op, surgeons from London and Rio spent months trialing techniques using VR projections of the twins based on CT and MRI scans — which Dr Jeelani has previously described as 'space-age stuff'. For the first time, surgeons in separate countries wore headsets and operated in the same "virtual reality room" together.

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