Sanju Bhagat’s stomach was once so swollen he looked nine months pregnant and could barely breathe. Living in the city of Nagpur, India, Bhagat said he’d felt self-conscious his whole life about his big belly. But one night in June 1999, his problem erupted into something much larger than cosmetic worry.
Mehta said that he can usually spot a tumor just after he begins an operation. But while operating on Bhagat, Mehta saw something he had never encountered. As he cut deeper into Bhagat’s stomach, gallons of fluid spilled out — and then something extraordinary happened. “First, one limb came out, then another limb came out. Then some part of genitalia, then some part of hair, some limbs, jaws, limbs, hair.”
At first glance, it may look as if Bhagat had given birth. Actually, Mehta had removed the mutated body of Bhagat’s twin brother from his stomach. Bhagat, they discovered, had one of the world’s most bizarre medical conditions — fetus in fetu. It is an extremely rare abnormality that occurs when a fetus gets trapped inside its twin.
The trapped fetus can survive as a parasite even past birth by forming an umbilical cordlike structure that leaches its twin’s blood supply until it grows so large that it starts to harm the host, at which point doctors usually intervene.