BANGALORE, India (AP) — Revered by some in her village as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess, a 2-year-old girl born with four arms and four legs was undergoing surgery Tuesday to leave her with a normal body.
The girl named Lakshmi is joined to a "parasitic twin" that stopped developing in the mother's womb. The surviving fetus absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.
A team of 30 doctors was removing the extra limbs and organs, surgery that if successful would give her a good chance to live past adolescence. They have already separated the fused spines and the next step will be to remove the extra limbs and the rest of the "parasite," said Dr. Sharan Patil, the orthopedic surgeon leading the operation.
"As of now, the child has been responding very well," Patil said several hours into the operation.
Children born with deformities in deeply traditional rural parts of India, like the remote village in the northern state of Bihar that Lakshmi hails from, are often viewed as reincarnated gods. The young girl is no different — she is named after the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth and her parents say she is revered in her village.
"Everybody considers her a goddess at our village," said her father, Shambhu, who goes by one name. "All this expenditure has happened to make her normal. So far, everything is fine."
Others sought to make money from Lakshmi. Her parents kept her in hiding after a circus apparently tried to buy the girl, they said.
The complications for Lakshmi's surgery are myriad: The two spines are merged, she has four kidneys, entangled nerves, two stomach cavities and two chest cavities. She cannot stand up or walk.
"It's a big team effort of a lot of skilled surgeons who will be putting their heart and soul into solving the problem of Lakshmi," Patil said earlier in the day. "It's going to take many, many hours on a continuous basis to operate on the baby. So, these issues definitely make it complex."
Patil put the risk of losing Lakshmi between 20 and 25%. Doctors have said the best case scenario after the surgery is that she will walk and function as a normal child.
Doctors at Sparsh Hospital in Bangalore, where the girl is undergoing surgery, said she is popular among the staff and patients. The hospital's foundation is paying for the operation because the girl's family could not afford the medical bills.
"She's a very cute girl," Dr. Patil Mamatha said. "She's very playful and gets along well with others."