I can't even begin to imagine the heartbreaking agony of raising conjoined twins under the best of circumstances, meaning with access to the finest medical care in the world and unlimited resources to alter your family's home so that everyone could live as comfortably as possible. So to try to wrap my head around the daily existence of Indian father Mohammed Shakeel is nearly impossible.
Shakeel's 15-year-old conjoined twin daughters, Saba and Farah, are so miserable and in so much physical pain that Shakeel wants the Indian government to allow doctors to perform a mercy killing. Working at a tea stall in Patna, Shakeel supports a family of eight on the equivalent of roughly $105 per month. As if the situation weren't bad enough. But even money wouldn't fix Shakeel's problems.
Five years ago, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi himself paid for the twins to visit the world's top conjoined twin specialists to find out if there was any way to separate the girls, but the necessary surgeries were so risky that Shakeel decided against having the Prince fund any procedures. At that point -- and this is the part that kills me -- the girls were relatively happy and in fair health. They liked "playing board games" and "watching Bollywood films." Of course the risk of one or both of your kids dying wouldn't seem worth it if they were happy!
Since then, their condition has deteriorated so dramatically that Shakeel would be willing to try surgery if anyone would offer, again, to help him pay for it. Even if they died as a result. Death, he feels, would be preferable to the current state of the twins, who are now said to be in excruciating pain at least 15 hours of every day.
This tragic story has parents everywhere asking themselves, "What would I do in that man's situation?" I can't even pretend to have anything close to an answer. All I can do is squeeze my eyes shut as tightly as possible to block out the image of those tortured girls and chant thanks to the universe for my two healthy children like an endlessly repeating mantra.
Do stories like this one make you feel like the luckiest parent in the world?
Image via Ryan Somma/Flickr