A pair of conjoined twins, who against all odds were born naturally in the remote village of Muzombo, western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have survived following an epic 870-mile round trip to be separated.
Anick and Destin, two baby girls who were born naturally at 37 weeks on August 23, 2017, endured an incredible journey across gruelling terrain, and are now being monitored at Vanga Evangelical Hospital, under the care of Dr. Junior Mudji.
Dr. Mudji first met the twins on August 30 when they arrived at Vanga Hospital with their mother Claudine Mukhena and father Zaiko Munzadi at just one week old. The family had travelled for 15 hours through the jungle on the back of a motorcycle, the twins wrapped in a blanket. Their village is so remote hospital staff hadn’t even heard of it.
Without the equipment or expertise to carry out the complex separation surgery in Vanga’s small hospital, Dr. Mudji contacted a team of volunteer surgeons in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, who perform operations on children born with deformities.
Concerned that the fragile newborns would not survive another long and difficult journey, Dr. Mudji’s team contacted Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a non-profit Christian aviation organization operating in remote regions of the world, including the DRC. MAF regularly flies to Vanga, delivering medical equipment and personnel to the hospital using small Cessna and Pilatus aircraft that are designed to land and take off in very remote and challenging terrain. Dr. Mudji was delighted to learn that MAF could provide an emergency flight for the family.
“When we landed in Vanga on September 2, about 200 people were waiting at the airstrip, swarming around the mom with the babies in her arms,” said MAF pilot Brett Reierson. “The doctor was leading her toward the airplane while people crowded around her, calling out, shouting, and trying to take pictures. We got her into the plane as quickly as possible!”
The 1.5-hour journey to Kinshasa aboard the airplane saved the family more than 14 hours on treacherous roads. When they arrived in the capital, a medic collected the patients from the aircraft and rushed them to a Kinshasa clinic where a successful separation surgery was performed by a team of volunteer surgeons.
Almost one month later, MAF Pilot Nick Frey flew the family back to Vanga, and the twins and mother were re-admitted to Vanga Hospital on Saturday, October 7. The family will be monitored for several weeks before facing the gruelling overland journey back to their remote village.
Dr. Mudji, who is delighted the babies have survived said, “Thirty-seven-week-old, conjoined twins born naturally – it’s unheard of! When I was told MAF could help… it was great news for us.” The twins were joined at the naval and shared some intestines.
Pilot Brett Reierson said, “The natural delivery of conjoined twins would be rare enough in a Western hospital. But for a mom and her babies to survive this type of birth in such a remote setting, and then the long and difficult journey across the jungle to be separated – it’s unbelievable! It was a privilege to be part of their story and see yet another example of how God is using MAF to bring hope to the most remote places of the DRC.”
Mission Aviation Fellowship—a global family of organizations—operates a fleet of some 130 airplanes across Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America. Since 1945, MAF has enabled the work of churches, relief organizations, missionaries, medical teams, development agencies, and others working to share God’s love and make life better for those who live in the most isolated parts of the world. In recent years, MAF has responded to disasters in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, in Nepal following two deadly earthquakes in 2015, and in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.