Father Joseph Tran Huu Khoi introduces Hoang Anh and Tran Thi Hong Thuy at a gathering on July 25 in Ho Chi Minh City. The couple's conjoined twins are doing well after an operation to separate them. (Photo: UCA News)
Officials from the City Children’s Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City announced on Aug. 3 that twins Maria Hoang Truc Nhi and Teresa Hoang Dieu Nhi were in good health, had no fever and were breathing by themselves.
They said the female babies held milk bottles in their hands while drinking and smiled dazzlingly when they met their parents or doctors and nurses joked with them.
The 13-month-old and 15-kilogram twins, who were joined at the pelvis at birth, were separated on July 15 by some 100 doctors and nurses after a 14-hour operation.
Mother Maria Tran Thi Hong Thuy, 26, said her daughters can happily play with her when she and her husband visit them daily. She said parental and God’s love are crucial for their survival and peace.
“We are extremely happy that our children live in our love and the community’s care. God loves us in a particular way and leads us on the right road,” she said.
The mother from Binh Loc Parish in Long Xuyen Diocese said she was urged by divine love and took her twins’ hands to make the signs of the cross on them before they were moved to the operating room.
“We leave our children’s lives to God’s hands and believe that God protects them and keeps their operation safe and successful,” she said, adding that they and their relatives prayed to God constantly during the extensive long surgery.
Thuy, whose husband converted to Catholicism and married her in 2017, said at first they were very upset and disturbed when doctors told them about the twin fetuses’ abnormality and many people advised them to abort the fetuses.
“We decided not to abort the abnormal fetuses under any circumstances after our relatives had recommended us to keep them and recite the Divine Mercy, and my relatives who are priests counseled us to receive our children because they are God’s gifts,” Thuy said.
The twins were discovered sharing one umbilical cord as her pregnancy reached 16 weeks. At 33 weeks, they were delivered by a cesarean section and weighed only 3.2kg.
Doctors said the rate of conjoined twins in the world is one per 200,000 live births. Only 6 percent are classified, like the Vietnamese twins, as ischiopagus tetrapus conjoined twins where the four lower extremities are oriented at right angles to the axis of their common torso.
The couple found it hard to look after the conjoined twins, especially feeding and holding them, but they are happy that their children are growing day by day and are lively and cute.
They left their jobs and spend all their time caring for the babies. They daily update their children’s clips and photos on social media, attracting 20,000 people.
“We are completely right to have protected the fetuses from abortion,” Thuy said.
Her husband, Hoang Anh, said doctors had predicted that the twins would not live until their birth but they struggled hard to survive.
“God has journeyed with them through the hard time, so we as their parents try our best to bring the best things to them,” Anh, 33, said. “Looking back to the past, we feel divine providence, although we will face many challenges in the future.”
Thuy said her twins are loved by many people who support them and offer money to cover their operation and treatment.
Receiving public support
On July 25, Father Joseph Tran Huu Khoi, pastor of Thanh Tam Parish in Ho Chi Minh City, which is home to the couple, offered them 48 million dong (US$2,000) as an encouragement to them to look after their children. Local Catholics donated the money in one week.
Father Khoi, who baptized the twins in June, praised the couple for having strong faith in God by having made signs of the cross on the twins before their operation. Many people were deeply moved by their brave action.
The Franciscan priest said Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City also lauded the couple for bravely not aborting the unusual twins' fetuses. They put absolute trust in God and protected the lives of their children.
He also called on Catholics to continue giving material and emotional support to the couple as their children will undergo further operations.
Thomas Vo Huu Bong, a local Catholic, admired the way the pair handled the situation by giving them a picture of Mother Mary breastfeeding the Infant Jesus that he took when he visited Israel.
“I wish them to follow Mary and Joseph to carry out God’s intentions and overcome difficulty to protect their children,” the 68-year-old man said.
On July 20, local media reported that benefactors had donated 2 billion dong ($87,000) to the City Children’s Hospital. The hospital will use the money to cover the twins’ medical treatment. Doctors plan to perform more operations on the twins in the coming months.