It is 10:30am. DrukAir flight KB 541 has just landed.
Sonam Tshering, 40, with a khadhar in his hands, patiently waits for his twin daughters, Nima and Dawa Palden and wife Bumchu Zangmo at the arrival gate of Paro international airport.
As Bumchu Zangmo enters with the girls, the arrival terminal was abuzz with people welcoming the girls home, some taking pictures and videos of the twins.
Sonam Tshering teared up as he kissed the girls. One of the twins say, ‘no, no’ as he reaches out to hold them in his arms.
Twins Nima and Dawa Palden and their mother returned home yesterday, five months after they arrived in Melbourne, Australia for a separation surgery.
The girls, who are now 19-months-old were born on July 13, 2017 at Phuentsholing General Hospital. The identical twins were joined at the lower chest to just above the pelvis and shared a liver.
Sonam Tshering from Mongar and Bumchu Zangmo from Trashigang have a son and five daughters including the twins.
Sonam Tshering who works as a caretaker at Punatshangchhu project’s office in Phuentsholing said the family faced varying levels of hardship with the newborn conjoined twins. “It was difficult for the girls to be in Phuentsholing so the girls and my wife lived in Wangdue until they left for Australia.”
When the doctor at Phuentsholing hospital told Sonam Tshering that there is a problem with his newborn twins, he said he had never dreamt that they would be conjoined. “I was numbed when I saw my girls.”
“I was worried about their future,” he said and struggled to figure out what to do next. “I consulted my relatives but there was nothing we could do than to cry.”
The girls were referred to the National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu where they were admitted for about 20 days.
“Dr Karma Sherub asked us if we have anyone in Thimphu so that we can take our girls from the hospital. He said there is a risk of infection if the girls are kept in the hospital for longer,” he said.
The family did not have any relatives in Thimphu so the girls were taken to Wangdue. Bumchu Zangmo and the twins lived with their relatives in Wangdue before they travelled to Australia.
Although Sonam Tshering was hopeful when they were told that the twins would be taken to Australia for a separation surgery, he couldn’t be at peace until the surgery was declared successful.
“I thank His Majesty The King, all the people who showered us with their prayers and well wishes, and the Australian government for giving a new life to my daughters,” he said.
Bumchu Zangmo said she still trembles when she remembers the hardship her family faced.
Although Bumchu Zangmo is happy that the twins were successfully separated, she said she was worried if they would do well like other children in future. “People would talk about the girls being conjoined and I am afraid that my babies, when they grow up would feel bad.”
She said the twins always look for each other and have to sleep together. “I think they are used to be together.”
Although she could not communicate with the people at the RCH and the foundation, she said they were helpful. “They were very compassionate.”
Bumchu Zangmo said she is thankful to Dr Karma Sherub, a pediatric surgeon with JDWNRH who made this possible.
“I would also like to thank the medical superintendent, Dr Gosar Pemba, the government, the team at the RCH and the foundation, Victoria State Government and the Bhutanese people who helped us.”
Dr Karma Sherub said he couldn’t be happier. “They should be able to live a normal life now.”
The eldest of the sibling, Ugyen Choden, a class 12 student said that she was excited to meet her mother and sisters after almost two years.
“We did not meet with our mother after the delivery of Nima and Dawa because they lived in Wangdue,” Ugyen Choden said. “Now, I feel that my family is complete.”
The family is planning to travel to their home in Phuentsholing on Sunday.
Welcoming Nima and Dawa home, the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday posted on their official facebook page saying that the Royal Government of Bhutan would like to convey its deepest appreciation to the 25 medical experts at the RCH in Melbourne.
“We also thank the Victorian government, Children First Foundation, Australian Government, the people of Australia and Bhutan for their support and their prayers all through the process,” it states.
Dechen Tshomo | Paro