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Routine Trip Into Uncharted Waters

UCLA's Dr. Jorge Lazareff says sticking to his usual habits helped him prepare for complex surgery to separate conjoined twins. The 'unknowns' made the surgery difficult.

August 12, 2002|LIZ F. KAY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some of the conjoined twins are conjoined at the chest. The classical Siamese brothers, everyone knows of them, from the 19th century, they were able to earn a livelihood, and they were able to marry and have a family. They were able to ambulate. They were able to do the most basic human capabilities: walking upright. And the upright walking provides you a three-dimensional perception of space and enhances your motor ability to perform a series of tasks.

They come with a normal brain that receives a constant stimulus from the environment when you are walking upright. And you spread your hands and you go from one point to another point. Those things would have been completely denied to those children.

Q: You devote a lot of your time to assisting children from developing nations. What inspires you to do that?

A: I don't know exactly. Basically, it is similar to why, when you write, you just try to find the best adverb to remove the dangling participle, why you put a semicolon instead of a colon. You just try to improve what you're doing. The same principle that drives you to do very good work ... the very best that you can.

Q: You have a family. How do you relate to this situation, having children of your own?

A: My son was born when I was in the last year of my training, and my perception as a physician changed immediately. To have children certainly enhances your understanding of the problems of other parents, particularly when you are going into pediatrics.

That doesn't mean there aren't excellent pediatricians or pediatric specialists who do not have children. In my case, having children helped a lot my understanding of the parents of my patients.

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