[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 December 2005, 11:22 GMT
Peru's 'mermaid' girl doing well
Milagros Cerron
Milagros Cerron six months on from her operation
A Peruvian baby born with fused legs is making good progress six months after having surgery to separate them, her doctors have said.

Milagros Cerron, now 19 months old, is thought to be one of the world's few surviving "mermaid syndrome" babies.

Most with her condition, called sirenomelia, die within days of birth because organs are also badly affected.

Milagros is said to be "stable", but will need many more operations as she grows up.

I dream that one day she will be able to walk, but we must see how nature adapts to the surgery
Dr Luis Rubio

In surgery, which took place in June this year, doctors were able to separate Milagros' legs further than planned - up to her thighs.

Such an operation had only been attempted a handful of times previously.

Reconstruction hope

The little girl appeared before the media in Lima, Peru's capital, this week in her first public appearance since her bandages were removed.

Dressed in tiny jeans and a white vest, she grabbed her toes and kicked her legs.

Milagros, whose names means miracles in Spanish, was born in April 2004 in the Andean town of Huancayo, 200km (125 miles) east of Lima.

Doctor Luis Rubio carries Milagros Cerron - archive photo from May 2004
Dr Rubio with Milagros before her operation

Her mother had not had an ultrasound scan, and so was unprepared for the baby's appearance.

Her abdomen was connected to her legs, trapped in a sack of tissue and fat down to her heels and her feet were splayed in a "V" - like a mermaid's tail.

Many born with the defect - the odds of which are between one in 60,000 to one in 100,000 - lack kidneys, causing death soon after birth.

The doctor who has treated Milagros since she was two days old, Luis Rubio, said: "Milagros' condition is stable, but she'll need continued treatment and surgery for the next 10 to 15 years.

The city of Lima has pledged to pay for other operations Milagros will need as she develops, which will give her the only chance of a normal life.

She will need surgery to further separate her limbs up to her pelvis, and to reconstruct sexual, digestive and other internal organs, along with her splayed feet.

Dr Rubio said: "I dream that one day she will be able to walk, but we must see how nature adapts to the surgery."

Milagros now weighs 20 pounds (9 kg) and is 28 inches (70 cm) tall.

She is small for her age. But Dr Rubio said that was not a concern given her situation.

Milagros' father, Ricardo Cerron, added: "We're so delighted now. We hope one day she'll be able to walk, to play in the park, to go to university."

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.

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 - Legs separated, using the stretched skin to cover the wounds
4 - A later operation will rotate splayed feet forward

'Mermaid' girl may walk - doctors
02 Jun 05 |  Americas


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific