Unique Journey: Bhutanese Twins Find Tranquility at Kilmore Retreat Prior to Life-Changing Separation Surgery

Nima and Dawa will receive medication and nutrients via a drip 24 hours a day to build their strength and overcome an illness picked up on their marathon travel to Melbourne from the Himalayas.

Their mother Bhumchu Zangmo said via a translator: “If the operation is not happening, it is better to be out here with more open air, nice trees and it is not suffocating. In this region it is much more peaceful and isolated than at home. In my village it is more crowded. This is beautiful.

“The girls are more happy here, they have all this space to play. In hospital it is just a ­single bed.”

Bhutanese conjoined twins Nima and Dawa enjoy the fresh air outside in the grounds of the Children First Foundation Miracle Smiles Retreat in Kilmore. Picture: Alex Coppel

Bhumchu has lived in fear of losing both Nima and Dawa if they were not separated, so she struggled when told just hours before their planned separation last week that the surgery had to be delayed.

While the situation is frustrating for all involved, Bhumchu said she remained overjoyed at the care and ­expertise of the RCH.

“I was very excited when I was told surgery was going to happen on the 12th, then when it got postponed I was a little bit sad,” she said. “Now I think it is for their own good so I can understand it, though there is some frustration.

Mum Bhumchu with Nima and Dawa relaxing in the grounds of the retreat. Picture: Alex Coppel

“I have been worried after coming to Australia because it seems like Dawa has some kind of flu or something and is not feeling well.

“Back at home they never had a fever, so this is the first time they have been sick.”

The need to delay surgery has also been difficult for Dr Karma Sherbub, who was flown from Bhutan by CFF and its sponsors last week in time to observe the twins’ separation surgery.

Despite his deep connection to the baby girls he has ­devoted a year to saving, as Bhutan’s sole paediatric ­surgeon he had to return home yesterday to care for others.

After seeing the twins at the RCH and now settling into the peace of the Kilmore retreat, Dr Sherbub said he knew they were in good hands.

Mum Bhumchu and Nima and Dawa relax at the retreat with visiting Bhutanese paediatric surgeon Dr Karma Sherbub. Picture: Alex Coppel

“I think they are more comfortable, here,” he said. “They can go for a walk and have some space. Even at home (in Bhutan) they didn’t go out because they didn’t want people to see them.”

As the girls enjoy time outside surrounded by hills a lot smaller than those at home, Dawa’s nagging cough is obvious. But it cannot stop the sisters finally enjoying time in the sun and ripping up wildflowers.

It is actually Bhumchu who feels ill when they arrive in Kilmore. Coming from a nation where winding mountain roads require a speed limit of 50kmh, the hour-long drive at 100kmh is difficult for her.

Nima and Dawa relaxing on the floor. Picture: Alex Coppel

She is not helped by the twins’ refusal to let each other sleep — overnight on Monday they set a record by staying awake until 5am, a problem which is worsening during their time here.

Bhumchu said: “I am more worried after coming here ­because it is a foreign country and I feel uncomfortable … I have some reservations about seeing all the new people and being in a new environment, and I do not speak the language.”

Mum Bhumchu with Nima and Dawa with visiting Bhutanese paediatric surgeon Dr Karma Sherbub. Picture: Alex Coppel

But, as she and the twins settle down together to try and rest on one of the two single beds in their room, Bhumchu knows the strain is all worth it. In the coming weeks she dreams they will finally be able to lay in different beds.


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