Struggle for Life

Since Oprah is all re-runs lately and I’ve caught every “What Not to Wear” episode on my DVR, I branched out on Sunday and watched the Discovery Health channel for a few hours. I had the good fortune to catch some captivating television. Among the titles, one especially interested me–the one modestly titled “Vanished Twins.” The premise of the show was that many of us had a struggle for life in the womb, and that current science suggests that as many as 1 out of 8 of us may have started out with a twin in the earliest stages of development. They told the fascinating story of a 7-year-old boy from a rural Kazakhstan village who had had a large abdomen ever since he was born. The other boys at school teased him and called him pregnant, while his parents thought it was Rickets and hoped it would go away. But one day the boy had terrible stomach pain, so they rushed him to the hospital and cut open his stomach. Inside they found a cyst, and inside the cyst was a dead, partially-formed human about a foot long with resemblances of legs, arms, testes, a face, nails, and long hair. The prevailing theory is that the boy had split into an identical twin in his mother’s womb. The healthier twin’s cell folded around the weak twin’s cell, enveloping it inside, where it eventually formed an umbilical connection to the boy so it could feed parasitically off him to stay alive! They called it fetus in-fetu. So, in a sense, the mother had a baby growing inside her that had a baby growing inside it.

Apparently it’s not genetic, just a wonderful, terrifying, and grotesque abnormality of nature. They showed two other instances, one, I think, of an American couple who had the same thing happen to them, but they caught it in the ultrasound, and one of a British couple that had a partially-formed fetus in the womb (no head or thoracic cavity) that was separate from the healthy twin, but feeding parasitically off the healthy twin via an umbilical attachment it formed to keep itself alive.

For some reason, I enjoy the type of science that shows the randomness of our existence. I also enjoy learning about our similarities to other animals, and about how our molecular makeup is the same stuff that makes up our entire universe as we know it. It is refreshing to be “put in our place”, when we are bombarded by our own arrogance in every direction: Save the planet from global warming! Save the endangered species! Humans were meant to rule the earth! I’m really quite tired of it all, and a show like “Vanished Twins” is somehow refreshing.