Surgery fully separates Peru baby's legs

Associated Press Writer

LIMA, Peru - Peru's "miracle baby" on Thursday underwent a successful second operation to fully separate her legs and allow her to walk unassisted, according to the lead doctor on the eight-person team performing the surgery.

"We have finished with the final part of the thighs. After recovery from this operation, she probably will be able to walk in better conditions," Dr. Luis Rubio said.

Milagros Cerron, whose first name means "miracles" in Spanish, was born with a rare congenital defect known as sirenomelia, or "mermaid syndrome," which left her legs connected from her heels to her groin.

Doctors successfully performed risky surgery in June 2005 to separate her legs to above her knees. Thursday's operation was to separate the remaining four inches of fused tissue just below the groin.

Milagros, now 2 years and 4 months old, waved and blew kisses to well-wishers before her surgery.

Her parents, medical personnel and journalists watched the procedure on a screen in an adjoining room. When the operation ended, Rubio lifted up Milagros to show that her legs were fully separated.

The girl — who is affectionately called "The Little Mermaid" by Peruvians — had developed the ability to stand alone without help and take small assisted steps before Thursday's surgery.

"I expect to be walking the streets of Lima holding her hand in December, which would be a Christmas gift for her family," Rubio said Wednesday night.

According to Rubio, Milagros will need at least 16 more operations in the next decade to reconstruct and repair her digestive, urinary and sexual organs.

He said her own body had corrected one problem — a lack of properly formed sockets for her hip bones that in December appeared to be one of the biggest challenges facing surgeons. Her growing body gradually formed the sockets, without which she would have been unable to maintain stability when standing up, Rubio said.

Rubio has said that Tiffany Yorks, a 17-year-old American, is the only other person known to have undergone successful surgery to correct the rare congenital defect, which occurs in one out of every 70,000 births and is almost always fatal within days of birth.

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