The Race to Save the Baby with ‘Two Heads’
A rare birth defect leaves a Myanmar newborn with a dangerous bulge growing from her head. When local doctors say there’s nothing they can do, her desperate parents scrape together the funds for an epic journey to save her life.
Photos by Brennan O'Connor
“Before my baby was born, the village doctor came and felt my belly, and told me she would be born with two heads,” says Daw Lae Lae, who was seven months pregnant at the time. Her daughter, Than Zin Moe, was not born with an extra head, but suffered from meningocele; a rare condition in which the meninges protruding from a spinal opening allows fluid to be trapped in a fold of skin on the back of the head, creating a large sack. After Than Zin Moe’s birth, her parents borrowed money to take her to a hospital in Yangon, the commercial capital of Myanmar. “It took them a month to do an x-ray,” says Lae Lae. After the x-ray, “I was happy because I thought they were finally going to do something to help my baby. I waited all day for the news without eating and just had a bottle for the baby.” The doctors told Lae Lae to bring Than Zin Moe back when she was older; there was nothing they could do. Broke and in despair, the couple sullenly returned to their village…