Mermaid syndrome or sirenomelia is a birth defect where the legs of a child are fused together. The child may have two feet sticking out to the sides like flippers or no feet at all. It is the former that gives sirenomelia its name. The bones of the feet and legs may be missing entirely or fused.
Usually, children with mermaid syndrome die shortly after birth. The condition occurs along with other abnormalities that affect the kidneys, bladder, genitals and rectum. The lungs may also be affected. With such an array of problems it is no wonder that survival is so rare.
The cause of mermaid syndrome is not known for sure. It is generally related to poor prenatal care or illness. Genetic predisposition is also a possibility. The condition can be detected by sonogram and the recommended treatment, given the poor prognosis, is termination of the pregnancy.
There have been three cases of children with mermaid syndrome surviving. The most recent was a girl in Peru named Milagros Cerron. Her condition was limited to the skin and blood vessels of her legs - otherwise the bones and muscles were present and her legs could move independently under her skin. Other internal organ were also affected especially the kidneys. Fortunately, Milagros is mentally a normal child.
After an operation in June, 2005, Milagros' legs were separated. The doctors commented that the surgery had gone far better than anticipated. She will need corrective surgery for her internal organs for the next 10 to 15 years but the prognosis is excellent. As of this year, 2006, she has begun to walk and doctors say she should be walking normally by the end of the year.
Click here to see a picture of Milagros at birth: mermaid syndrome.