On December 10, 2003, a baby named Rebeca Martinez - child of Maria Gisela Hiciano and Franklyn Martinez, 28 - was born in the Dominican Republic. She is a normal, healthy baby except for one thing: she had two heads.

The second head is not sitting on its own neck next to the other head, as most might imagine upon hearing about this story. On the contrary, the second head is growing on top of Rebeca's main head, as if it were to be a conjoined twin that just stopped forming. The second head has a partially formed brain, ears, eyes and lips. For a photo, go to this Yahoo article:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=589&ncid=751&e=1&u=/ap/20040206/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/dominican_two_heads
The two heads share blood vessels and arteries, which makes the operation to remove it that much more complicated.

The operation is necessary, even though at first glance something seems wrong about it. After all, the second head does have a brain and eyes that may or may not be able to see. Tests have shown that there is activity in the second brain ( now how many people have ever wished they had two brains?). So is the operation essentially killing somebody, even though that somebody is severely (and I do mean severely) disabled?

But, moral argument aside, doctors say the head must go or Rebeca will not have a healthy, happy life. At three months she will not be able to lift her head up. She would be a freak all of her life, which would only be good for a career in the circus.

Twins born conjoined at the head account for one of every 2.5 million births. " Parasitic twins" like Rebeca are much rarer than that. The technical term for this condition is "craniopagus parasiticus" and Rebeca's is the eighth known case. The other seven cases died before birth, however, making this case and the proposed operation unprecedented, so says Dr. Santiago Hazim, medical director at CURE International's Center for Orthopedic Specialties in Santo Domingo (CURE is footing the entire bill for the operation, fortunately for Maria and Franklyn). The main reason that the surgery must be performed now is that the second head could actually retard Rebeca's development.

Being born with that second head was actually a shock to the proud parents and doctors, for prenatal scans only indicated she probably had a tumor of some sort attached to her head.

The freakiest thing, perhaps, about the second head, is that while Rebeca breastfeeds, the lips on the other head move. Just imagine that staring back at you when you're giving your baby a mamary lunch. The surgery will be done by 18 surgeons, nurses, and doctors. The undeveloped tissue will be cut off, the veins and arteries they share clipped, and a bone graft will be done on Rebeca's skull using bone material from somewhere else on her body. This node is being written as the surgery is being done; it is going well so far and hopefully Rebeca will be fine. I will update this as needed.

UPDATE

The 11-hour operation was completed Friday night. 4 gallons of blood from family members was donated to help with the operation. Rebeca lost a lot of blood during the operation. After it was completed she bled and suffered many heart attacks. She lost a lot of blood and the heart was accustomed to beating faster to pump out more blood for the other head. Tragically, about 6 AM on Saturday, February 7, 2004, Rebeca Martinez passed away. Godspeed, Rebeca.

Sources: www.yahoo.com, www.cnn.com

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