In nightmarish medical news, a 26 year-old student in Los Angeles discovered that what doctors had thought was a tumour causing her terrible headaches turned out to be her embryonic twin, buried into her brain.
What student Yamini Karanam described as her “evil twin sister who’s been torturing me for the past 26 years” is what doctors call a teratoma: a mass of bone, hair and teeth. Teratomas are a scientific horror that has puzzled experts, who put them down to twins that never quite develop and instead lodge themselves into their would-be sibling.
Karanam’s troubles began when she moved from India to Los Angeles to study and went from doctor to doctor trying to find a reason for her headaches, exhaustion and inability to complete normal functions such as eating or walking.
Eventually doctors believed that she had a cyst on her pineal gland in the centre of her brain, but Karanam’s symptoms continued to worsen.
She wrote on her blog,
“The fear didn’t sink in yet. [My] will was undeterred because it was hardly put to test. [My] energy levels were sinking and fatigue started crippling [my] days … Months and weeks slipped through [my] fingers. There weren’t any diagnostic procedures left to run on [me]. Consultations followed procedures but nobody said anything useful. It was like white noise passed from the doctor to the patient to the support system. Now, they called it a tumour and that’s all 21st century medicine could do in three months.”
Eventually her friends raised money for her to see a surgeon in Los Angeles who was specialising in radical keyhole brain surgeries, Doctor. Hrayr Shahinian. Shahinian made an incision in Karanam’s head and strung an endoscope into her skull and through a natural channel in her brain to the tumour. It’s then that he discovered the teratoma that lived in Karanam’s mind.
Thankfully teratomas are very rare. But luckily for Karanam, Dr. Shahinian experts her to make a full recovery.