Fetus in Fetu
In India, doctors are operating to remove what they thinks is a massive tumour on a man who looks nine months pregnant. When they cut him open, they are horrified by what they find inside.
Deep inside Sanjay Kumar, possibly also known as Sanju Bhagat, is the body of his twin brother. A half-formed baby that has lain inside him, as a parasite, for thirty six years. Sanjay’s story is shocking but every twin pregnancy is fraught with danger. His case is the extreme end of a range of conditions that affect twins in the womb. All too often the journey from conception to birth may be a battle; a battle that can end in death.
May 1999, in the city of Nagpur in India on a hot summer night, thirty six year old Sanjay Kumar is rushed to hospital. His stomach is so swollen he looks nine months pregnant and he can barely breathe. Doctors think he has a giant tumour and decide to operate immediately. Dr Ajay Mehta of the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai recalls “Basically, the tumour was so big that it was pressing on his diaphragm and that’s why he was very breathless”.
Surgeons prepare to operate, they know they’re facing a dangerous task but are unaware of the full scale of the horror they’re dealing with. Dr Mehta and his team begin to operate and soon it becomes clear they’re not dealing with any tumour. They cut into the mysterious lump and out gushed gallons of pus to reveal a strange, almost human, shape within. Dr Mehta relates “To my surprise and horror I could shake hands with someone inside”.
Inside Sanjay’s belly is the half-formed body of an infant boy. Dr Suchitra Mehta tells us “The feet and hands were well developed. It had fingers and nails; the nails were quite long”.
It is a baby boy, and it has been growing inside Sanjay for thirty six years. Even more shocking, this baby is the mutated body of Sanjay’s twin brother. The half-formed twin has been growing inside him parasitically feeding off him, sooner or later it would have killed him.
Sanjay had suffered one of the world’s strangest medical conditions, where one foetus envelops and absorbs it’s twin inside the womb, called fetus in fetu. It occurs in less than one in five hundred thousand deliveries.
Fetus-in-fetu comes about when, early in pregnancy, one twin foetus wraps round and envelops the other. As the foetus then grows, what would have been it’s twin remains inside it attaching it’s blood vessels to it’s host and feeding off it as a parasite.
Normally, fetus in fetu is diagnosed in the womb or soon after birth. These days, with ultrasound technology, cases of fetus in fetu are usually detected very early on. Sanjay’s case was unprecedented, doctors were baffled as to how his parasitic twin had gone undetected for 36 years.
To doctors, Sanjay’s case may have been a medical miracle but, it brought only shame and misery to him. As he grew older his belly got bigger and bigger. People in the village, where he grew up, made fun of him. They said he looked pregnant. After the operation Sanjay explained “Before the operation, life was very tough, but now I’m much better”.
Although it was a baby, Sanjay’s twin, like all fetus in fetu, was too under-developed to be viable. It could not survive outside it’s host.
CREDITS: The above information came from the UK Channel 5 “Extraordinary People” documentary series.