Can you imagine having a person growing inside of you? I know you are probably thinking of Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but apparently, this really happens.
On August 23, ABC News reported a story about an farmer from Nagpur, India. Sanju Bhagat, 36, lived his whole life with a bulging stomach.
Villagers mocked him saying that it looked like he was pregnant. But it turns out that their teasing wasn’t so far from the truth.
Bhagat had a condition known as fetus in fetu. This happens early on in a pregnancy, when a twin grows within its sibling and survives, like a parasite, by connecting itself by an umbilical chord-like structure to the blood supply of the host. There have only been around 90 reported cases worldwide, and for some reason, males are twice as likely to suffer from it than females.
Fetus in Fetu happens very early in the development of an embryo, when it is just a ball of cells called a blastocyst. A blastocyst sometimes divides and grows into two fetuses, but in this rare condition they divide unevenly, and one cell mass gets stuck inside the other. Most of the time this condition is fatal to both twins, but on rare occasions one or both survive after delivery.
The condition is usually noticed after the parasitic twin grows so large that it causes discomfort to the host. In Bhagat’s case, he began having trouble breathing because the mass was pushing against his diaphragm, the muscle that controls breathing. In June of 1999, Bhagat was rushed to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India for emergency surgery.
Doctors were sure that an enormous tumor was causing the discomfort–but they were horrified to find no tumor at all.
One unnamed doctor interviewed in the ABC News story described what she saw that day in the operating room:
“[The surgeon] just put his hand inside and he said there are a lot of bones inside,” she said. “First, one limb came out, then another limb came out. Then some part of genitalia, then some part of hair, some limbs, jaws, limbs, hair.”
The story reports that the fingernails of the body inside were quite long, suggesting that it had been alive for some time after Bhagat was born.
Upon recovery from the surgery, in which his twin was removed, Bhagat immediately felt better. But he says that villagers still tease him about it.
Here is a link to a case-study of two people with Fetus in Fetu, published in the March 2000 edition of Radiology. There are really interesting images that show how the twin grows inside the sibling.
Now I suspect I will start having nightmares about someone growing inside me…