An African father is struggling with a decision that no parent should ever face. He must decide the fate of his conjoined twins' lives.
Ibrahima Ndiaye and his wife unexpectedly became parents of conjoined twin girls on May 18, 2016, BBC News reported. The couple had expected to deliver one daughter so the news came as a surprise and shock.
Now, the girls, Marieme and Ndeye, who are nearly 3 years old, are fighting to stay alive. Marieme's heart has become so weak that she's being sustained by Ndeye's stronger heart.
If Marieme dies, Ndeye will also die. Their father must decide whether or not to separate the girls.
Conjoined twins are very rare. The condition happens when the embryo only partially separates to form two babies and occurs in only about one of every 200,000 births, according to experts.
What's the story?
In Dakar, Senegal, where the girls were born, there were no doctors who specialized in caring for such cases. Their father made it his mission to find someone who could help the girls and possibly separate them.
Ndiaye finally found a hospital in the United Kingdom that agreed to see the girls. Their mother initially traveled to London with the family, but later returned to Senegal to care for her other child there.
The father and girls remained in London where they decided to seek asylum to ensure the twins' safety and well-being.
In their home country, Ndiaye explained that there is "ignorance" about people with disabilities and the twins could be placed in harm's way.
"People might see it as a punishment from God, or believe witchcraft is involved," he told the BBC.
"This view is widespread and taboo to talk about. There are dangerous sacrifices, and certain children can be targeted," he continued. "People would not see Marieme and Ndeye as conjoined twins. They would see them as a baby with two heads and their lives would definitely be at risk."
What is the girls' condition?
In spring 2017, the physicians informed the family that Marieme's heart was too weak to attempt separation surgery.
The girls each have a healthy brain, their own heart, and lungs. They share a liver, bladder, and digestive system. They also share a conjoined arm that both have control over.
Each has a stomach that is linked and there are three kidneys between them.
Like most toddlers, they are happy and they love to sing. They aren't able to walk.
With each passing day, Marieme is growing weaker. She is receiving oxygen from Ndeye's heart and food from their linked stomachs.
The situation has begun putting a strain on Ndeye's body.
Last year, doctors said if the girls aren't separated and Marieme suddenly dies, it would be too late to save Ndeye.
That has left Ndiaye with the unthinkable decision of whether or not he should allow doctors to attempt separating the twins and risk losing one or both of them.
What will he do?
For now, he isn't ready to make that decision, which he described as a "black hole," the BBC reported.
Ndiaye said he's trying to handle his situation as best he can. He spends his days caring for and spending time with his daughters. He has no job or salary, and the family has no permanent home in London.
"To be honest, I find life here very humiliating and humbling, not having a job or salary. But I try to remember to use this difficult time to become a better person," he said.
"I need to go through this hard time with dignity," he continued. "For me, I need to know, in my heart, that I have done everything for them, provided them with safety and the best possible health care. When I look in the mirror, I need to be at peace. Beyond this, I have no control.
"The future is uncertain but my girls battle every day for life and I feel very blessed. I have found out through their lives what life is," he said. "My girls are warriors and the world needs to know this."
(H/T: BBC News)