Paris surgeons separate twins after marathon op

French doctors have achieved a rare medical feat, successfully separating four-month-old conjoined twins after marathon surgery at a specialist Paris hospital.

The twins – named Hassan and Boubacar – were born in west Africa's Guinea in January, joined at the stomach.

Their mother said that neither doctors nor midwives were aware ahead of time that the twins would be conjoined, so the birth was natural, reported Le Figaro newspaper.

They are believed to be the only conjoined twins – also known as Siamese twins – ever to be born in Guinea.

(The twins' mother Fatoumata. Photo: Photo: La Chaîne de l'Espoir)

Upon hearing the news, a specialist team of surgeons from France visited the family in Africa, then flew them to the Necker specialist hospital in Paris for separation. 

The operation was carried out under extreme secrecy at the hospital, and was funded by donations to the La Chaîne de l'Espoir charity, which was founded in France to help children in need around the world. 

Surgeons knew the job wouldn't be an easy one, with examinations showing that the twins shared a liver and a 30 centimetre stretch of small intestine.

The team of four pediatric surgeons and three plastic surgeons, however, were confident the rare feat could be carried out successfully.

And indeed, they were correct. Mid last week, the two boys went under the knife in an operation that lasted nine-and-a-half hours.

Both Hassan and Boubacar emerged in good health, and can travel back to Guinea as twins of the more common variety.

Separating conjoined twins is a rare medical operation in France. The head surgeon in charge of the Guinea brother, Yves Aigrain, told Le Parisien newspaper that he had only had three similar jobs in his seven years at the hospital. 

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France’s 104-year-old twins say closeness key

When they were born premature in 1912, doctors gave Paulette and Simone the slimmest chance of survival. But 104 years later, the twins say there's a simple secret to their longevity: sticking together.

France's 104-year-old twins say closeness key
Twins Paulette Olivier and Simone Thiot at their retirement home in Onzain. Photo: Gillaume Souvant/AFP
With their long white hair tied back in ponytails and gold spectacles perched on their noses, Paulette Olivier and Simone Thiot are happy to pose for the camera at their retirement home in Onzain, central France.
“This will be fun!” they say in chorus.
There is no official confirmation that Paulette and Simone are the oldest twins in France, but they appear to be the likely holders of the title.
“We're being very spoiled,” one of them says as they show off the flowers given by the local council and fellow retirement home residents to mark their 104th birthday.
Paulette and Simone were born in the central village of Limeray at 11:00 am on January 30, 1912 to Marie Lamolie, a dressmaker, and her husband Joseph, a carpenter.
Their entry to the world did not bode well.
“We were premature,” says Simone, who can still get around these days without the help of a Zimmer frame.
“We were due in March but we were born in January. They gave us a very small chance of surviving. I didn't even weigh a kilo. And you, just three pounds,” she says to her sister. “They had to keep us wrapped up for four months.”
Paulette, widowed at 36, worked as a hairdresser for 15 years in Algeria, then in Paris. Simone, a dressmaker like her mother, lost her husband when she was 64. Neither had any children.
The twins, whose only brother died in accident at the age of 99, insist it's their lasting friendship that has kept them going all this time.
“We are still alive because we have always stayed close,” says one. “We keep our independence — each of us has her own room — but we only need to cross the corridor to see and talk to each other.
“We pity old people who are alone with no one to visit them.” 
Paulette and Simone spend their time keeping up with current affairs, reading, watching television and listening to music.
Simone also regularly writes poems which she keeps in a notebook.
Any other tips for a long life? “A simple life — no excess. No alcohol. And lots of sport.
“We did gymnastics for a long time, and a huge amount of cycling — almost every day.”