Conjoined twins given one-in-a-million chance of survival after being separated at six weeks are now 16
On December 1, 2002, twin sisters Zainab and Jannat Rahman were born to parents Nipa and Luther in London, UK. Unfortunately, their birth was not without complications. In a rare turn of events, the two girls were born conjoined, attached at the chest and liver.
Doctors were aware of the risk of delivering the babies and urged the parents to consider an abortion. They refused, however, despite the odds of the girls' survival being "one in a million".
The decision was the right one to make: after a four-and-a-half hour operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital by a team of 20, the infants were successfully separated when they were six weeks old.
Now, they have just celebrated their 16th birthday - and it looks as if they both have very promising futures ahead of them.
"Everything we went through before feels like a distant nightmare now," said Nipa, a 36-year-old nursery nurse. "At that time I never dared imagine this day. But to look at them now is amazing. They have achieved so much already and against the worst odds imaginable."
Luther added: "I am the luckiest father in the world. When I see these two I feel that God gave me a gift. We are still cherishing it. Every day. They have made us both very proud."
The parents know how fortunate they are to have had both their girls survive the operation. "They are a miracle," said Luther. "And I tell them that they are here for a greater need in this world. To achieve good things and to treat people with respect and kindness."
Though they may not be joined together anymore, the twins are still inseparable. They describe themselves as best friends and claim that they have only ever spent one night apart.
They know they will have to go their separate ways soon, however, as they are planning on going to different universities to study different subjects. Zainab wants to go to Cambridge and become a paediatrician at Great Ormond Street - the very place her life started out. Jannat, on the other hand, is studying languages and wants to go to Oxford. She has dreams of becoming a lawyer and moving to France one day.
"Maybe it will be hard [to leave one another], but I guess we have to be independent at some point," said Zainab.
"People do ask us, ‘Will you be OK?’ I think we will," Jannat added. "As we’ve got older we’ve got more confident."
Their father still thinks they'll end up in the same place though.
"Even though they try so hard to be different from each other, they end up doing the same. I strongly believe that’s because they were conjoined," he said. "When they were younger they would sit across a room and smile at each other and laugh, before they could even talk. They’ve always had a deep connection."
Regardless of where they end up in life, the girls - and, indeed, their parents - are grateful to have survived, and are determined to do something with the second chance they've been given.