They are healthy, happy and looking forward to a promising future with dreams of Oxbridge.
It is a far cry from the terrible uncertainty Zainab and Jannat Rahman faced when they were born – joined at the chest and liver.
Doctors had told their parents to consider aborting the conjoined twins, giving them a one in a million chance of survival.
But the sisters defied the odds, and have now just celebrated their 16th birthdays.
Their proud mother Nipa, 36, a nursery nurse, said: ‘Everything we went through before feels like a distant nightmare now. At that time I never dared imagine this day. But to look at them now is amazing. They have achieved so much already and against the worst odds imaginable.’
The girls were separated at six weeks old in a pioneering four-and-a-half hour operation by a 20-strong surgical team at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Today they are promising A* pupils at the top of their school in east London, where they are both prefects.
Zainab hopes to go to Cambridge and become a paediatrician at Great Ormond Street. Jannat, who is studying three languages, plans to go to Oxford and hopes to become a lawyer. Their father Luther, 42, a business development director, beams with pride at his daughters’ achievements and ambitions, which he is certain they will achieve.
‘I am the luckiest father in the world. When I see these two I feel that God gave me a gift. We are still cherishing it. Every day. They have made us both very proud,’ he said.
‘They are a miracle. And I tell them that they are here for a greater need in this world. To achieve good things and to treat people with respect and kindness.’
The sisters, who are full of energy and constantly finishing each other’s sentences, turned 16 on December 1.
In all their lives the girls, who say they are ‘best friends’, have spent just one night apart. Jannat said: ‘It was a school night and I wasn’t well. I was quite young so I had to spend the night at my grandmother’s house. It was only down the road though … We don’t have any reason to be apart.’
Zainab added: ‘We have the same school and we have the same friends. We are best friends but sometimes we do fight just like any other siblings.’
The sisters are due to be apart once more when Zainab, who is studying Latin, goes on a school trip to Rome next month.
She said: ‘It is the first time we are going to be apart properly. It is for two nights as well and in a different country. We’ve had no reason to be apart before. I think it will be fine.’ Jannat added: ‘We are more independent now but I’ve told my mum and dad that they have to treat me as an only child while she is away.’
It will be good practice for the twins who plan to go to different universities, with Jannat hoping to live abroad after her studies.
But their father joked: ‘They will end up at the same university, same campus, same town and even the same dorm. They will always be together, I’m sure of it.’
The news that the girls were conjoined was revealed to their parents at the first scan in 2002, when doctors advised Mrs Rahman to consider an abortion.
She said: ‘In the scan they could see there were two heartbeats, which was good, but that they were not moving independently.’
Mr Rahman said: ‘We were horrified when we were advised to abort them. But we said, whatever they are, they are our children.’
He added: ‘They said it was one in a million chance of survival for both of them. If they did survive, there was a chance that one of the children could lose a limb or end up with an illness. Luckily the organ they shared was the only one that regenerates, the liver.
‘They were more worried for Jannat. They said it was a slim chance of her surviving as Zainab had been keeping her alive in the womb. Jannat had a hole in her heart.’
Once separated, Jannat went into intensive care for further surgery. During this time Zainab, feeling the absence of her sister at her side, became restless, refusing food and being unable to sleep.
‘Zainab was looking for her. She kept reaching out for her sister,’ said Mr Rahman. ‘We didn’t click what the problem was at first. But then one of the nurses had an idea and fetched a mirror. She put it in her cot and suddenly Zainab started looking at her reflection and smiling. She was content again.
‘Eventually we were able to walk home with both our children.’