At night, twin sisters Iman and Sanchia Mowat often sleep in a fixed position.
Even though he can’t remember the first three months of his life, when they were fused at the base of his spine, somehow his body is comfortable recreating the position 20 years later.
Iman said: “Even though we are separated, we are still very close. We sometimes sleep in the same position as when we were attached. We are quite angry.”
Born four months ago on September 13, 2001, weighing just 10lb together, the girls were three months old when they underwent separation surgery at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, led by the late neurosurgeon Tony Hockley.
The pioneering 16-hour operation had never been done before in the UK and only twice before in the world.
Even though they only had a five to 25 percent chance of survival, and were at risk of paralysis, even if they did, the parents of the twins Emma and David knew they wanted to move on.
Iman said: “From the very beginning, our parents could see that we wanted to be independent. If I had been given the choice at the time, I would have wanted to separate.
“Naturally we are quite different and we like to be around each other all the time.” And Sanchia added: “When I look back on my life, I am so grateful to be separated from my twin.
“It may sound strange, but we have been allowed to live our individual lives.”
The pair, who live in the family home with younger sister Damaris, 19, may have split up, but they have stayed together through thick and thin.
They both love R&B, gospel and jazz and while they love wearing hoodies and trainers, they also enjoy dressing up for night outs.
Iman said: “Sanchia used to be more outgoing, but I think I’m more extroverted now. The biggest difference is that I like to watch thrillers and sci-fi movies, but Sanchia likes chick flicks.
“Life would be very different if we were still connected. We wouldn’t be able to go to different universities or be around different people.”
Girls in their 20s now have spina bifida and each has a vulnerable part of the body that causes back pain and trouble walking. Iman sometimes uses a wheelchair or crutches to walk, while Sanchia also uses crutches.
We sometimes sleep in the same position as when we were attached
He cannot play certain sports and says being unable to go outside during the pandemic has taken a toll on his physical health.
Iman said: “We each have one leg shorter than the other and there’s a weak side where we were attached. I get a lot of leg cramps. We’re used to it. When it’s bad, we say That this is one of those days.”
They understand when the other is in pain, and when they need some extra help to get around.
But both have gone far beyond the expectations of their doctors and are determined to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do the same.
Iman said: “I think that if we weren’t born that way, we wouldn’t have had the people we’ve met and we wouldn’t have had the knowledge or such respect for disability communities.”
When Sanchia started walking at the age of two, five weeks later with his sister, it was a cause for celebration. Sanchia said: “They didn’t know we were going to walk. When we did, people said it was a miracle.
“We still have hospital appointments, we have procedures and operations, but it’s amazing we’ve come this far.”
Conjoined twins are very rare, with an estimated one in 200,000 live births. They develop from a single fertilized egg, so they are always identical, and about 70 percent are female.
This month reported how one-year-old twin girls who were attached at the back of their heads were separated in Israel, allowing them to see each other for the first time.
The story prompts Iman and Sanchia to talk about their experience. Sanchia said: “It was so exciting to see those pictures of the girl children. They’re split on their heads and it’s amazing, it’s prominent.
“We’re excited for them because we know they can grow up with their lives and still be close to their twin, but also be personal.
“Stories like these give us a little humility as we think about what happened to us as a child and how far we have come.
“Even though surgery does have side effects, we express our gratitude and gratitude to everyone who has helped us.”
All three are in their second year at the university. Iman is studying Politics and International Relations, Sanchia has chosen Cyber Security and Damaris Childhood, Youth and Educational Studies.
There was a time, during their teenage years, when the twins preferred not to talk about their wonderful story.
Iman said: “It wasn’t until we grew up and started looking at old newspaper articles about us, that we realized how big of a deal it was.
“We always had film crews and journalists on our birthdays but when we were four, five, six, we were really fascinated by it all.
“Our friends used to ask, ‘Why are you on TV? Are you famous?’ And we would tell them that we were born together and I think that was quite a brainstorm for them.
They didn’t know we were going to leave. When we did, people said it was a miracle
“We moved out of the area to a different school when we were 12, and we didn’t talk about it. No one knew what happened to us.”
She continued: “We’re way ahead of the stage when we thought we had to talk about it and now we’ve chosen because we want to show that we’re living our lives in the best way we know that how.
“With social media, we are seeing other young people talking about their stories, although not many people come forward as conjoined twins. This is still rare.
“We talk about how we have good and bad days, but we are showing that people with disabilities can have a good life and have a career and we hope that is inspirational to others. “
As they come to the end of their treatment at the Children’s Hospital and move into adult care, the twins wanted to show how much they appreciated all the help they received as a final farewell.
They are aiming to raise £10,000 for the hospital through an online singathon with friends and family, sporting events and various other fundraising ideas.
fused spinal cord
Dr Satheesh Rao, deputy chief medical officer of the hospital, said: “The surgery for the twins was quite unique at the time, and more challenging than other conjoined cases, as it was their spinal cord that was fused.
“After the successful separation, there was still some uncertainty as to whether they would even be able to walk, so given the complexity of where they started, it’s important to see the progress the girls have made over the years and where they are now. Well, it’s amazing.
“I congratulate them on all their achievements and thank our young patients for supporting them through their fundraising.”
Sanchia said: “Due to the pandemic we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and we wanted to do something other than just send a card.
“We wanted to say, ‘It’s been 20 years and you’ve done so much for us, we want to give something back.
- To donate to the Mowat Sisters Funding, visit https://themowatts.co.uk Or https://themowatts.co.uk/fundraiser/