Nida and Hira Jamal were born as conjoined twins in Karachi, Pakistan. Conjoined twins occur approximately once in every 200,000 births, but twins joined at the head (craniopagus twins) are even more rare.
Nida and Hira
At the time, society shunned them. Their country’s medical facilities could not help them. Their family was desperate, poor and isolated. Their loving parents prayed ceaselessly for a miracle. When then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto took up their cause, the Jamals were convinced their prayers were answered.
Separate Lives (Dir. by Robert Lang, Deborah Magidson, 1996) is the incredible inside story of the twins’ arrival in Toronto for a pioneering operation at Sick Kids Hospital that would give them a chance at a new life.
Separate Lives won a Gemini Award for Best Science, Technology, Nature and Environment Documentary in 1998. It aired around the world to huge audiences on Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel (USA), and as part of the popular British BBC1 science series, Living Proof where it became the most popular program in the series capturing an audience of over four million viewers.
We added the full documentary to our YouTube channel in October 2013 and it was viewed a few hundred times in the first few months. Then, interest spiked late last year and in the first three months of 2015, the film was viewed over 16,000 times. This April, Separate Lives has been viewed nearly 25,000 times. Update: As of October 26, 2015, the documentary has been viewed over 111,000 times!
We’re always fascinated when an older piece of work benefits from a resurgence. Have a watch if you’re interested in the amazing possibilities of the human body and of medicine.
Update: the overall survival rate of conjoined twins is between 5% and 25%, with about 75% of surgical separations resulting in at least one twin surviving.