Friday, November 14, 2008

Nepalese Siamese Twins

In December 2000, I woke up and read the Straits Times that a pair of Siamese or conjoined twins have arrived in Singapore General Hospital to be separated. Ganga and Jamina were from Nepal and were joined together on their heads as though one was standing on top of the other.

The newspaper called for public donations. There was something in me that I couldn't explain. Besides shedding some tears for their parents Bushan and Mrs. Shrestha.

I decided to do something constructive. I have been raising funds for the Deaf in Kenya through Foodsale. I asked the Foodsale Committee if they would support me if I started the donation drive in NTU. My friends overwhelmingly agreed to help both in collection and give cash. Beside the Foodsale group, two of my very good friends A. and M. also volunteered.

I did this drive first by emailing as many people I knew on the campus, put out flyers in the residential blocks. This attracted those who were not on my email lists. A friend's young daughter also helped when she saw the flyer. Some of the university students also donated.

Among my neighbours were some families from Nepal, and they were extremely grateful that I took up this to help their fellow country men. One of them is the husband of the sister of my friend. He was training as a doctor in the same hospital. He offered to be our contact person.

The drive was very intense with a flurry of emails and telephone calls. There was a sense of urgency because I was going back to New Zealand for a month long holidays. My friends told me to go and they would do the rest. We kept in contact by email, up dating me with the donation figures.

We raised quite a lump some. I was very happy even though I also got some brick bats from those who didn't want to donate. Some asked why I was raising funds for foreigners.

Manchala and I went to visit the babies twice. I am most privileged to see them while they were still conjoined. Not manypeople get to see conjoinned twins.We went again after they were successfully separated.

I brought a gift to the mum from my American Jackie friend. Mrs. Shrestha was in tears and hugged me. She asked through an interpreter why I did this. I answered in tears, I said, "My son didn't have a chance, I wanted to give her girls one."

After the surgery, Ganga and Jamuna went home. I kept up their news. Jamun was doing well, Ganga wasn't.

A Nepalese professor thanked me in an email, " Thank you for spearheading this donation drive in NTU, without you doing it, it won't have happened. I am most touched because you are not even a Nepalese."

In 2008, when I was in Auckland, my friends in Singapore emailed me the sad news that Ganga had died. That morning, my colleague Diane who had volunteered in Nepal also told me the tragic news. Ganga died on July 29, 2008 at the age of 8 due to a severe chest infection. We knew she would eventually die.

***These pix were taken during our second visit. Mrs. Shrestha is the young woman sitting down. Manchala is the one wearing blue Punjabi dress. (She is one of my best friends) The others are Nepalese.***

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