June 4 (UPI) — Conjoined twins in Tanzania who were well-known in their country died this week at the age of 21 from respiratory failure.
Maria and Consolata Mwakikuti were joined at the midsection and shared lungs. They had separate head and hearts.
Back in December, Maria was diagnosed with a respiratory problem resulting from an inoperable chest deformity, Dr. Faith Kundy, a physician at Iringa Regional Hospital, told CNN.
“They underwent tests and it was very unfortunate that nothing could be done,” Kundy said. “It was very sad for me. Apart from being patients they were friends, they were funny people. I feel so sad because they had a hope of living.”
Maria died on Saturday afternoon. Fifteen minutes later, Consolata died, as well.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli tweeted said he was “saddened” by news of the twins’ deaths.
Maria and Consolata “dreamed of serving the nation,” he said.
The twins were lauded by their determination to get an education and won national acclaim when they graduated high school last year, according to the BBC. They also hoped to one day marry the same husband.
The parents of Maria and Consolata both died when the twins were infants. They were raised by a group of nuns.
“They were very lovely, very enthusiastic,” Sister Jane Nugi told CNN. “Their plan was to work and to help other people less fortunate in the community. They were suffering of course but they were able to live and want to live. In spite of the bonding condition, they had passion for life.”