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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 02:27 GMT
'Mermaid girl' to have legs split
Doctor Luis Rubio carries Milagros Cerron - archive photo from May 2004
Dr Rubio is optimistic about Milagros' operation
Surgeons in Peru are preparing for an operation to separate the legs of a girl born with the rare condition "mermaid syndrome" or "sirenomelia".

Nine-month-old Milagros Cerron has been dubbed the "little mermaid" because her fused legs resemble the tail of a fish.

Usually babies with the condition die within days of birth. Milagros is one of only three known survivors.

A medical team, led by surgeon Luis Rubio, will operate on the girl on 24 February in a hospital in Lima.

The team includes trauma surgeons, plastic surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, neurologists, gynaecologists and a paediatrician, and the operation is expected to last five hours.

Feet splayed

Most sirenomelia sufferers have severe organ damage and die within hours.

The only person who is known to have survived in the long term is 16-year-old American Tiffany Yorks, whose legs were separated before she was one year old.

Milagros - whose name means miracles in Spanish - is relatively unharmed.

Her abdomen merges into her legs, which are connected by skin down to the feet, which are splayed in a V-shape.

She has normal bone structure and independent movement within the two joined legs.

She has only one kidney, and only a single channel for her digestive tract and genitals.


But because the operation will not concentrate on these areas, Dr Rubio says he feels her chances of survival are good.

"Every surgical procedure has risks but we are taking every precaution," he said.

She will need operations to correct her rudimentary digestive channel and genitals at a later date.

Milagros was born in the mountain city of Huancayo, 200km (125 miles) east of Lima, to very poor family.

Her father, 24-year-old Ricardo Cerron, said: "I keep thinking about what's going to happen and how's the operation going to be."

Mother Sara Arauco, 19, said: "My dream is that everything is going to turn out well."

1 - Legs are fused together by skin and feet splayed in a V-shape
2 - Saline sacks inserted and gradually filled to stretch the skin
3 - Two operations, three months apart, separate the legs, using the stretched skin to cover the wounds
4 - A later operation will rotate splayed feet forward

See the girl who will undergo the operation

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