, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 15 – It began with a march down hospital corridors and the kind of hubbub that generally accompanies the arrival of a dignitary.
The dignitaries on this day were to be found on the 4th floor in the paediatric wing of the Kenyatta National Hospital.
Clad in a black pant suit, hospital CEO Lily Koros made her way from the administration block of the hospital determinately, stopping only for a second at the lifts before making for the stairs.
Up on the 4th floor, it felt like Christmas.
There the celebratory mood was palpable as hospital staff fussed over the now famous twin girls, Blessing and Favour.
Going on three-years-old, for most of their young lives, the girls have called the hospital home and would for the first time go out into the world on Thursday and best of all, separate.
The girls were born conjoined, their lower backs fused together. On November 1, 2016, they were rolled into the operating theatre at KNH after being given a 50-50 per cent chance of survival.
Twenty-three hours later, an exhausted 50-man team of medical personnel made history; they had successfully separated the girls.
Seven months later, the girls were doing so well that it was time for them to go home, in this case, Meru.
This should explain why they were all decked out in what could qualify for Sunday bests: matching flower print dresses with red doll shoes on their stockinged feet; the only exception was their belts, Favour had on a yellow one and Blessing a red one, perhaps to aid in telling them apart. “But they couldn’t be more different to me,” their mother Caroline Mukiri chimed.
“It felt so good the first time we saw the children look at one another because the way they were born, they couldn’t,” the Acting Deputy Director, Nursing Nancy Kariuki remembered.
The girls themselves however appeared impervious to it all. When Koros took them in her arms to lead them back down the corridors to a briefing room, one continued to play on her mom’s phone – which had a bright green cover on – while the other pulled on her faux pearls.
Their demeanours weren’t any different in the briefing room either despite all the clicking cameras and flashing lights or even when on the way there, their arms were held up to wave “bye.”
They went on fighting over their mom’s phone and demanding that their water bottles be put back within view despite the cameramen’s protests. “Mom,” one of them repeated incessantly, “maji yangu iko wapi? (where’s my water).”
As they went about their business so did Paediatric Surgeon Joel Lessan, explaining that the girls would require monitoring – though now on an out-patient basis – to assess the development of their organs, some of which have been split between them.
“After the studies that we had, the imaging that we had, we knew where the line of separation could be, so we went for those lines of separation. One had a complete anus on one side, the other one has partial so part of the monitoring is us finding out at what ideal time will we come in to now mobilise those structures to be as normal as possible.
“We expect the one who received most of it to be very continent at the end and be able to be self-independent, the other one will take a bit longer to teach her after surgery on how to work with what she has.”
The formalities out of the way and the hospital bill amounting to over Sh5 million having been split between the KNH and the National Hospital Insurance Fund, it was finally time to go home and for one final march down the hospital corridors.
Outside, a rickety van bearing the KNH and NHIF branding waited by the sidewalk; loaded with the possessions the little ones had accumulated in their time at the hospital.
A group photo later, Mukiri boarded the vehicle, her two animated, separate and different twin girls, in tow. “I can’t explain my happiness, I wish you could understand.”