JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Doctors performed surgery on one of the Mathibela Siamese twins today to stop sudden bleeding, but the other twin demanded food and hospital officials said both babies were in stable condition.
'They are still very ill, but there is nothing life-threatening right now,' spokeswoman Amanda O'Reilly said at Johannesburg's Baragwanath Hospital.
'Both are stable and Mpho is hungry,' she said.
Doctors were recalled to the operating room early today to attend to Mphonyana, the smaller of the 16-month-old twins, 10 hours after the 12-hour separation operation in which she lost large quantities of blood, O'Reilly said.
Chief neurosurgeon Robert Lipschitz, who led the team Tuesday, and a plastic surgeon were woken about to stem the superficial bleeding in the baby's surgical wound.
'The bleeding was controlled ... and she was taken back into the intensive care unit about 9 a.m.,' O'Reilly said.
'At this stage there is a 72-hour crucial period during which they will be in the ICU (intensive care unit). After that, depending on what happens, they will stay in intensive care, on medication, until they have recovered fully,' she said.
Hospital staff said congratulatory messages poured in late Tuesday and early today, among them a call from American doctors who performed a similar operation on West Germany's Binder twins at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital last September.
After the operation, Mpho and Mphonyana slept in their own beds for the first time in their short lives.
Doctors announced the 'successful separation' late Tuesday after more than 12 hours of preparation and surgery at the segregated Baragwanath Hospital on the fringe of Soweto black township.
The twins' mother, Sophie Mathibela, was ecstatic at the results of the intricate operation that involved separation of their skulls and brain membranes.
'I feel so happy, happy, happy,' the 33-year-old domestic worker told reporters. 'I want to sleep a little, pray and thank God for all he has done.'
Hospital superintendent Dr. Chris Van Den Heever said: 'It's been a long 16 months. Sometimes we have been down in the dumps and other times guardedly optimistic, but today is a most marvelous day at Baragwanath.'
Now, he said, 'we have two separate, lovely babies.'
The operation began Tuesday with three hours of anesthesia, followed by the neurosurgical separation lasting 7 hours. Plastic surgeons then stitched the wounds for another two and a half hours.
The twins, whose tribal names mean 'Gift' and 'Little Gift,' were transferred to the intensive care unit to recuperate from the grueling operation.
Dr. Robert Lipschitz, chief neurosurgeon, said before the operation that sacrificing one twin for the life of the other had not been considered.
'The team is going to try to save them both,' Lipschitz said Friday. 'Other than being joined by the head, the sisters are totally different to one another, physically and psychologically.'
Before the operation, Lipschitz consulted with doctors at Baltimore's John Hopkins Hospital who separated Patrick and Benjamin Binder, of Ulm, West Germany, in September. The twins, now 14 months old, have returned to Germany.
Before the Binder case, there were about 10 instances of separations of Siamese twins joined at the head, a Johns Hopkins spokeswoman said.
Unlike the Binder twins, the Mathibela sisters did not have separate blood vessels feeding and draining their brains. In October, doctors led by Lipschitz operated on the girls to create separate veins for each of the two brains.
Miller would not give immediate details of Tuesday's operation, saying the doctors needed time to meet and put the procedure into perspective.
Van den Heever said doctors would be monitoring the twins to see 'how they develop as individuals separated from each other and how quickly the milestones they could not have up till now, such as crawling and walking, will follow.'