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Ben Carson overcame his troubled youth in inner-city Detroit to become a gifted neurosurgeon famous for his work separating conjoined twins.
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In 2003, Ben Carson faced what was perhaps his biggest challenge: separating adult conjoined twins. Ladan and Laleh Bijani were Iranian girls who were joined at the head. For 29 years, they had literally lived together in every conceivable way. Like normal twins, they shared experiences and outlooks, but as they got older and developed their own individual aspirations, they knew they could never lead independent lives unless they separated. As they told Carson at one point,
"We would rather die than spend another day together."
This type of medical procedure had never been attempted on conjoined adults because the outcome would almost certainly result in death. By this time, Carson had been conducting brain surgery for nearly 20 years and had performed several craniopagus separations. He tried to talk the two women out of the surgery, but after many discussions with them and consultations with many other doctors and surgeons, he agreed to proceed.
Ben Carson and a team of more than 100 surgeons, specialists and assistants traveled to Singapore in Southeast Asia. On July 6, 2003, Carson and his team began the nearly 52-hour operation. They used a 3-D imaging technique that Carson had developed several years earlier during the Banda twins operation. The computerized images allowed the medical team to conduct a virtual surgery before the operation. During the operation, they followed digital reconstruction of the twins' brain. A specially designed chair allowed the operation to be preformed while both sisters were in a sitting position.
Besides the girls age, the surgery revealed more difficulties because their brains not only shared a major blood vessel, but had fused together. The separation was completed at 1:30 p.m. on July 8. But it was soon apparent that the girls were in deep critical condition, having both lost a large volume of blood due to the complications of the surgery.
At 2:30 p.m., Ladan died on the operating table. Her sister, Laleh died a short time later at 4:00 p.m. The loss was devastating to all, especially Carson, who found some solace in the fact that the girls' bravery to pursue the operation had contributed to neurosurgery in ways that would live far beyond them.
In 2002, Carson was forced to cut back on his break-neck pace after developing prostate cancer. He took an active role in his own case, reviewing X-rays and consulting with the team of surgeons who operated on him. Carson fully recovered from the operation cancer-free. The brush with death caused him to adjust his life to spend more time with his wife and their three children, Murray, Benjamin, Jr. and Rhoeyce.
Carson still keeps a busy schedule, performing nearly 300 operations a year and speaking to various groups around the country. He has written three books include the autobiography Gifted Hands (1996). The other two works, The Big Picture (2000) and Think Big (2006), are about his personal philosophies on success, hard work and faith in God.
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