Baby Ana Paula was actually meant to be born a conjoined twin, but her sister did not survive the surgery meant to separate them. As a result the toddler from Panama was left with multiple organs including three kidneys and three legs. While doctors at Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles, CA announced that they would remove her middle leg as a matter of course, they have also stated that it is also necessary to remove her right leg as well after finding that her knee and ankle do not function at all. The procedure is scheduled for next month.
Despite going from three legs to one, doctors do expect the 22-month old little girl to be “a very functional as a walker, at the very least with crutches or with the arm crutches or something similar, although she will never walk normally," according to a statement made to CBS News by one of the surgeons. Despite this, doctors are reluctant to speculate on any other aspects of survival due to a number of other severe medical conditions that would require numerous other surgeries.
While extremely rare, several other cases of children with three legs have been reported in the past few years, each of whom were meant to be a twin, although their intended siblings failed to develop individually. These have included baby “Destiny” born with three legs in Detroit, MI in June 2005, and two little girls born in 2012; one, named Nafisat Ahmed in Nigeria’s Borno State, and the other in Xingtai, Hebei Province in Northern China.
Once referred to as Siamese Twins (after brothers Chang and Eng Bunker, 1811-1874, who were born in Siam and gained fame traveling with P.T. Barnum's circus for many years) conjoined twins are identical twins joined together while in the womb. While one theory attributes the phenomenon to a single fertilized egg that partially split, a newer and (more generally accepted) cause is a fusion between stem cells seeking out like cells between the twins and “fusing” the fetuses together. Both end up sharing a single amniotic sac and chorion placenta.
It is now estimated that the advent of conjoined twins ranges anywhere from “from 1 in 50,000 births to 1 in 200,000 births, with approximately 50% being stillborn. Oddly the condition occurs with more girls than boys, and rates of such births are generally higher in Africa and Southeast Asia than other parts of the world.