Lakshmi Tatma was born attached to a semi-developed conjoined twin, which gave her the appearance of having eight limbs instead of four.
She was worshipped by many people in her home village because of her resemblance to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. But her condition was life threatening and she underwent extensive surgery to remove the twin.
Lakshmi’s story was told in a powerful television documentary, which moved many people around the world.
Indiability and the SKSN Institute have together taken Lakshmi under their care and are assisting with her rehabilitation. Despite the success of the operation, it is clear that Lakshmi faces many more medical challenges. Whilst some of these can be dealt with in her new hometown of Jodhpur, she also needs to have expert treatment in Bangalore, where her operation took place, or Mumbai, or abroad.
Also, Lakshmi's unique medical history requires her to have regular check-ups from expert doctors familiar with her case. This requires travel that is too expensive for her family, or Indiability, to afford.
Lakshmi was born with four arms and four legs in the northern state of Bihar. Coming from an impoverished rural village without electricity or running water, her disability caused numerous challenges for her devoutly religious parents. Lakshmi's mother Poonam, and father Shambu, worked as casual laborers, earning a dollar-a-day (the same price as a portion of McDonald's French fries!)
Feted by villagers as a reincarnation of the eight-limbed Hindu goddess after whom she is named, Lakshmi needed constant care from her parents, who were forced to take days off work to care for her – halving their already meagre salary.
Despite several attempts to get medical help for their daughter, they were turned away from government hospitals and told nothing could be done – until a hospital in Bangalore was able to provide some hope.
The Tatma family made the journey from Bihar to Bangalore, along with Lakshmi's four-year-old brother Mithilesh, with all their possessions in one bag.
Just before starting school at SKSN Institute, Lakshmi and her family returned back to their village in Bihar for a short break. During this time, Lakshmi was able to see her grandmother and cousins, and her parents were able to fulfil some of the promises they had made to the Gods for a successful conclusion to the surgery in Bangalore.
Lakshmi was separated from her headless, conjoined twin in a marathon 27-hour operation on November 6, 2007. Until the operation at the Narayana Health City, in Bangalore, Lakshmi's spine was fused with that of her conjoined torso, leaving her unable to walk or crawl.
The unprecedented operation involved a 36-member team of orthopedic, pediatric, neurological, plastic, micro vascular and intensive care surgeons led by Dr Sharan Patil. Working in six to eight-hour shifts, surgeons transplanted a kidney from Lakshmi's conjoined twin, separated their spines and repaired her pelvis before finally removing the torso.
Lakshmi gained worldwide fame during her groundbreaking operation, with TV and newspapers from America to Russia following her progress hourly.
Following Lakshmi’s discharge from Sparsh Hospital in Bangalore, the family asked if they could come and live at SKSN. Here, Lakshmi (or Nunu – meaning ‘Little one’) would be able to receive proper healthcare, there would be free education for Mithu in a proper school, and her father would have a job.
While at SKSN, Nunu’s clubfeet have been corrected at the MG Hospital in Jodhpur. During this time, however, we discovered that she had developed scoliosis - medical condition which causes the spine to be curved.
Nunu started school in July 2009, joined by her 3rd sibling in February 2010.
This fund was set up to raise money to help Lakshmi continue to get the medical care she needs, and to stay healthy and happy for the rest of her life.
Despite the success of the operation, which removed her extra limbs, it's clear that Lakshmi faces many more medical challenges. Whilst some of these can be dealt with in her new hometown of Jodhpur, others necessitate expert treatment elsewhere - in Bangalore, where her operation took place, or Mumbai, or abroad. In addition, Lakshmi's unique medical history requires her to have regular check-ups from expert doctors familiar with her case - all of which require travel that is too expensive for her family or SKSN to afford.
Lakshmi's recovery so far has been a miracle of modern medicine – her aftercare fund exists to make sure the doctors efforts so far do not in the end go to waste.
With the help of everyone who has contributed to the fund, the hope now is that the dream of a normal, happy life for Lakshmi can be made true.