The condition is called polymelia – it is when a person is born with more limbs than usual (the usual, in case you’ve forgotten, is four). The condition can result from twins becoming fused together in the womb – one survives and the non-surviving twin’s limbs are attached to the living twin. This condition is further called ischiopagus. Other times, the body axis becomes distorted and the child can grow extra legs.
The former is what happened with Lakshmi Tatma, who was born with four legs and four arms.
Granted, this story is kind of old, but it’s definitely worth noting, here in a place where we talk about unusual medical conditions. Lakshmi was born in 2005, and had a risky operation in November of 2007 to correct her very unusual condition. Lakshmi, named after the Hindu goddess with four arms, was born in Bihar, India, a very poor part of the country.
A circus tried to buy her, and the people from her town thought she was the incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi, but all her parents wanted was for their little girl to have a normal life. They approached doctors in Bangalore and a team of surgeons started planning the best and safest way to remove Lakshmi’s extra limbs, which kept her from functioning normally.
A team of 30 surgeons set about removing Lakshmi’s cojoined twin – an almost-complete mirrored body that had not only its own arms and legs, but also its own nerves, chest cavity, stomach, and kidneys. Twenty seven hours later, the $625,000 surgery was complete. Luckily, Lakshmi’s family did not have to pay. The situation was so very unique that the hospital’s foundation footed the bill
And so little Lakshmi, who was not expected to live past her teenage years and who could neither walk nor crawl, was expected to make a full recovery and lead a normal life. Dr. Saharan Patil and his team removed the extra limbs, the extra organs, and corrected the malformed spine and pelvis.
At the end of January, 2010, we got an update on a four-year old Lakshmi who can stand and walk on her own two feet, and had already started school. She still has lingering health problems, including scoliosis and some digestive issues, but there are doctors who are committed to helping her, no matter how much it costs. This is a very special little girl, and they want to keep her happy and healthy for a very long time.