Ten Years After: Medical Tourism Surgery is Cause for Celebration

Writer: Joe Harkins

Carl and Clarence Aguirre catch up with his or her heirs, Robert Marion, M.D., chief, Division of Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, Montefiore Medical Center.

They are not great brothers, but, what almost-teen boys ‘ are.

Carl is silent and uses a wheelchair and leg braces to move about. His brother, Clarence, is a attention-grabber, bound to greet visitors with high-fives. Both use helmets to protect their skulls. For the most part, their mom says her sons are merely fine.

A decade has passed since Carl and Clarence Aquirre, conjoined twins in the Philippines, embarked on a medical tourism trip to america. And although operation at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in nyc in 2003 was not without defects, their separation is motive to allow their mom to celebrate the anniversary of her decision to take advantage of a medical tourism prospect.

“When they were born, the physicians in the residence (Philippines) told me, ‘You’ve got to choose which one is to dwell,” Arlene Aquirre informed CBS. “I said, ‘I cannot select that.’ The physicians here (New York) didn’t ask me to select.”

The boys, now 12 and enjoying seventh-tier in the USA, have been born joined at the top of their heads, not able to sit, stand straight, eat normally — or watch each other. Doctors thought that without the operation, both could have died within 6-8 months out of complications of craniopagus.

In two-and-a -half thousand live births are all craniopagus. The Aquirre boys have been one of the first group of twins to experience successfully staged separation, conducted over a 10-month period.

“The historical treatment was to sacrifice you to save another,” explained James T. Goodrich, M.D., director of pediatric neurosurgery at Montefiore who headed the multidisciplinary surgical group. “The separation turned out to be clearly very profitable.”

Separate, But Equal

Shortly after operation split the conjoined twins, Clarence, left, and Carl Aguirre, sit perpendicular to play with.

The groundbreaking surgery, now accepted by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons along with the European Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons, separating the craniopagus twins has become the standard-bearer for neurosurgeons.

“When they had not come to us if they did, they would have withered away and died,” explained Dr. Robert Marion, director of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Montefiore and the boys’ pediatrician. “We’re honored to have played a part in helping these boys grow into the unique people they are now.”

Knowledge gained by the procedure has helped guide similar effective surgeries around the globe. Goodrich and his group have since separated four other sets of joined-at-the-head twins in London, Melbourne and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“As individuals around the globe become more comfortable with overseas physicians, health care tourism is demonstrating that no one country has a monopoly on life threatening procedures,” stated RenĂ©e-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association®. “Increased numbers of caregivers are coming back to their native states after long tenures of education and training abroad. Along with private and public sector investments in nearby medical infrastructure, this trend isn’t just helping to fortify the globalization of healthcare, but opening windows to life threatening processes around the globe where people never believed possible.”

Own Advice

Amy Scher took three trips for a medical tourism treatment in New Delhi, India, in which she obtained an experimental embryonic stem cell therapy to treat Lyme’s disease.

Regardless of the help of her physician and her own bookings, Amy Scher, took three trips to New Delhi, India, in which she obtained an experimental embryonic stem cell therapy to treat Lyme’s disease, a condition that resulted in her muscle fatigue, brain lesions and near continuous pain.

“Western medicine failed me,” stated Scher, writer of “This is How I Save Your life: A True Story of Embryonic Stem Cells, Indian sex and Self-Healing.” “I agreed to be the guinea pig, because it offered the most potential for regeneration. It had been my greatest shot a rescue my life.”

Now, Scher says she is completely cured of all effects of this autoimmune illness. Her life experience must come as no surprise for Jeca Periera, an 11-year-old East Timorese boy that traveled to Melbourne in September to repair the damaged vales in his heart which left him breathless, dangerously underweight and not able to attend school.

Doctors stated that without remedy, Jeca’s condition would continue to deteriorate and he’d probably be dead within six months. But, the East Timor Hearts Fund, an Australian charity, also stepped and flew Jeca along with his mom from impoverished East Timor and its own under-resourced clinical system to Melbourne to the life-saving, but comparatively simple surgery.

The procedure, dubbed a mitral balloon valvotomy, inserted a little balloon into among Jeca’s narrowed heart valves. With the help of an internal ultrasound, then the balloon was inflated and deflated to slowly stretch the narrow valve and allow more blood to leak and make breathing easier. One day following the procedure, Jeca was straight back on his own feet.

Bridging Gaps

Jeca Periera, an 11-year-old East Timorese boy , traveled to Melbourne in September for a medical tourism procedure to repair damaged vales in his heart which left him breathless, dangerously underweight and not able to attend school.

Technologies along with the rising mobility of consumers have been closing openings in healthcare access. The Aquirre boys shared a “bridge” in their own, a 5-6 centimeters long slice of mind that needed to be divided. Goodrich said there was a degeneration of Carl’s right parietal lobe, which controls the left side of their mind, following separation. Carl endured seizures, now controlled with medication, and has limited use of the left leg and arm.

“The physicians at Montefiore spared the lives of my sons and I am so grateful for every single minute spent with them” said Arlene Aquirre, a single mother who resides with the boys in New York on a medical visa. “Even though they have distinctly different personalities, it’s heartwarming to view them with Clarence acting as a big brother to Carl and supporting him round the home.”

Carl loves to eat ice cream and play with video games. Clarence enjoys swimming, singing and dancing. Both continue to visit Dr. Goodrich twice annually for check-ups, and their pediatrician and neurologist also. Doctors are hopeful that their bone tends to be fully developed and there’ll soon come a time when they no longer need them.

But, for now, the boys are all fine.

“You are now the mom of two boys,” Dr. David Staffenberg, the boys’ plastic surgeon, informed their mom following the operation.

And that’s OK with Arlene Aquirre.