A 3-month old girl named Asree Gul was admitted to Nangarhar hospital in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, with an extra head attached to her scalp. A group of Afghan surgeons led by Ahmad Obaid Mojadidi were able to perform a risky but ultimately life-saving operation to remove the extra head. The child was released from the hospital a few days ago.

Her mother had given birth to twins, one of whom was born healthy. Asree Gul had not developed properly while she was in the womb, although doctors are unsure of what caused a second head to develop – they have speculated that it may have been the result of a third baby who had failed to develop completely.

Chief surgeon Ahmad Obaid Mojadidi said that it may have been one of the most sophisticated operations to take place in the impoverished city of Jalalabad. The surgery involved operating around the vital blood vessels that attached Asree Gul’s skull to the extra head.

Three month old Asree Gul and her twin sister at a Jalalabad hospital. Getty

Mojadidi told BBC that the operation was “the first of its kind in Afghanistan’s east” even though they didn’t have very developed equipment. Asree Gul’s father, Nematullah, had not expected his daughter to live. “The doctors saved her life. I thank them,” he told AFP.

Because the baby’s parents, who are farmers, were too poor to afford the $5,000 operation, doctors performed it for free. Her parents had brought her to the hospital after she had experienced trouble sleeping from the pressure of the extra head, and after villagers had begun making comments about her deformity.