Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Lakshmi, the Goddess
This cute and happy two-year-old girl is called Lakshmi, after the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune, love, and beauty who had four arms. The girl has four arms, four legs, two connected spines, and several doubled organs (kidneys, stomachs, chests). Her twin stopped developping in the womb, a condition known as ischiopagus which covers roughly 6 percent of conjoined twins.
She is in the middle of a 40-hour surgery (USD 200,000) performed by 36 professionals in which the spines have already been separated. The Reference Frame wishes her the best.
A major part of her village celebrates her as a goddess and plan to erect a temple while a circus wanted to buy her. I would bet that the original goddess wasn't quite invented because people have had some experience with unusual biological developments and mutations for thousands of years. In those ancient times, it is clear that people couldn't perform successful surgeries. Some societies were likely to kill children with 8 limbs but the ancient Indians were probably among those who would allow her to live. It seems plausible that such a woman has lived a happy life sometime in the past.
The phenomenon is not that exceptional: about one in 100,000 births (plus minus a factor of two) results in conjoined twins of some kind. 50% dies during the birth and 50% of the rest dies soon. Girls are overrepresented - about 70-75 percent of cases.