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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK
'Mermaid' girl's legs separated
Milagros Cerron with surgeon Luis Rubio
Dr Rubio hopes to fully separate the girl's lower limbs
A medical team in Peru has successfully completed a second operation on a two-year-old girl born with fused legs which should allow her to walk unaided.

Head doctor Luis Rubio said Milagros Cerron was stable after surgery and there were no complications.

Milagros has "mermaid syndrome" or sirenomelia, a condition which usually kills sufferers within days of birth.

Surgeons separated her legs to above the knees in a June operation and have now finished work on her thighs.

The process will take at least another 10 years to complete, they say.

Milagros is one of only three known survivors of the condition, and her progress has been followed closely throughout Peru.

Standing alone

The two-year-old, known to Peruvians as the "little mermaid", waved and blew kisses to well-wishers ahead of the operation, the Associated Press news agency said.

I expect to be walking the streets of Lima holding her hand in December, which would be a Christmas gift for her family
Luis Rubio
Head physician

Afterwards Dr Rubio raised the little girl's legs to show they were fully separated.

"There were no problems," he said. "There were no complications from anaesthesia or from haemorrhaging," he said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

Milagros' father said his great hope was that one day she would walk.

"In a few years she will be going to kindergarten and I hope she can walk like the other children so that she can learn and be a normal child," he said.

Milagros had already developed the ability to stand alone and take small assisted steps, Dr Rubio said before the surgery.

"I expect to be walking the streets of Lima holding her hand in December, which would be a Christmas gift for her family," he added.

More surgery

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 a year old.

Milagros was relatively unharmed, having one good kidney.

But she will need operations at a later date to reconstruct her urinary, digestive and genital systems.

Milagros was born in the mountain city of Huancayo, 200km (125 miles) east of Lima - Peru's capital - to a very poor family.

However, the costs of surgery are being met by the city of Lima, whose mayor is the girl's godfather.

Diagram of operations
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
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