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Doctors Successfully Separate Legs of 'Mermaid Baby'

Doctors early Wednesday successfully separated the fused legs of a baby girl known as Peru's "mermaid." The little girl suffered from a congenital defect that occurs in one out of every 70,000 newborns.

A team of 11 doctors at Lima's Solidarity Hospital took part in the operation, including plastic surgeons, pediatricians, and heart specialists. Thirteen-month-old Milagros Cerron was born with a rare congenital defect known as sirenomelia, or "mermaid syndrome," with her legs fused together from her thighs to her ankles. The surgery was carried in a live, closed-circuit feed. Milagros' parents watched the procedure in a nearby room.

After four-and-a-half hours, doctors separated Milagros' legs, holding her up to show the line of stitches extending from her heels to her inner thighs. The procedure actually surpassed doctors' expectations. They had only planned to separate the girl's legs up to her knees.

Milagros' parents, Sara Arauco and Ricardo Cerron, expressed their gratitude. Sara says, "I feel content to see my baby like that. I feel happy, very happy. I had faith and that faith is becoming reality. Never, never did I give up my faith"

Her father Ricardo adds, "In that moment I saw the separation of my baby's legs and I know that in a couple of days she will be able to move and sit and that makes me feel happy."

The lead surgeon, Dr. Luis Rubio, says Milagros will need up to 15 years of corrective surgery to reconstruct and repair her sexual, digestive, and other internal organs. But he says her intellectual development has been remarkable, particularly her speech and vocabulary.