In a lengthy procedure in May, pediatric surgeon Henri Ford separated conjoined twins, the first such surgery performed in Haiti. The chief medical correspondent of CBS News, Dr. Jon LaPook, observed the surgery and filed this report on CBS, which includes a video segment:
There's nothing unusual about twins holding hands. But 6-month-old infants Marian and Michelle Bernard share much more: They were born joined at the abdomen.
When we saw them, they were minutes away from one of medicine's rarest and riskiest operations. Improbably, the 2010 earthquake that brought so much death and destruction to Haitialso helped bring Michelle and Marian a shot at a normal life.
Their future was in the hands of Dr. Henri Ford. Born in Haiti, he and his family left a Port-au-Prince neighborhood in 1972. He became an ivy-league-trained pediatric surgeon, now Chief of Surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He rarely returned to his home country, but that changed when the earthquake struck.
"I arrived the second day that the airport opened and pretty much went to work and spent two absolutely grueling weeks, the toughest ones of my life," said Ford. "When it came time to leave, I recognized that I couldn't just say, 'Yes I did my share and it's over.' It wasn't a one and done thing."
When Michelle and Marian were born, their doctors asked Dr. Ford if this risky operation could be done in Haiti for the very first time. The procedure would require sophisticated medical care in a country where millions still lack even basic health care.