Of the six people in the world living with Mermaid Syndrome, four have had their legs separated. Dr. Matt Hand, a kidney specialist who has treated Shiloh since she was a baby, says a unique set of medical circumstances prevented Shiloh from having that operation. "She has a nest of blood vessels that would make cutting through them much more difficult to do without losing the extremities themselves," he says. "But more importantly, Shiloh was very sick. She went onto dialysis, which is to replace her kidney function, when she was about 3 years of age. Given that, going through the extensive surgery for separation wouldn't have worked."
If Shiloh had the surgery today, Dr. Hand says it would be purely cosmetic. "Because of the fusion of those legs, to try to get them to open and be functional, it would be very unlikely that we would be able to have her walk," he says. "We've been down this road a million times in terms of what we could potentially do for [Shiloh], but even with prosthetics it would be extremely hard to do, and it would take us about two years' worth of surgery to get there."
Dr. Hand says the surgery would also create concerns regarding possible kidney failure. "[Shiloh's] the only girl with Mermaid Syndrome who has ever had a kidney transplant," he says. The kidney complications that could arise during surgery make it too difficult an option to pursue.