Sanju Bhagat learned to live with the strange bulging stomach that made him look like a pregnant man. It drew laughter from his neighbors, but Sanju had more important things to worry about. Most importantly, earning enough money for himself and his family to live on.
Over time, however, his enormous stomach continued to grow to the point that it made breathing nearly impossible. Eventually unable to breathe, Sanju was forced to go to a hospital where the doctors told him some shocking news. Sanju wasn’t pregnant at all. Nor was he suffering from a tumor.
What Sanju Bhagat had inside him was none other than his twin brother.
Sanju Bhagat’s Difficult Life
Even without the abnormality of Sanju’s stomach, he had a tough existence. He was born in Nagpur, India in 1963. In his early years, he didn’t show signs of medical abnormalities.
He worked on a farm as a teenager and always relied on his body to put food on the table for his family. Like many of his neighbors, however, no matter how hard Sanju worked, money was always a problem.
As if his life wasn’t already difficult enough, in his late 20s his stomach began to grow to a startling size. This was odd since Sanju barely had enough food to keep himself nourished, let alone gain weight. What’s more, he was out in the fields sweating and exerting himself every day. So why was his stomach growing?
Sanju didn’t know the answer, but he didn’t dwell on it. He simply put his head down and continued working as he always had, determined to provide for his family. Still, his enormous belly stuck out in his small community.
By the time he reached his 30s, people started referring to him as a pregnant man. They found his belly hilarious. They compared him to a woman who was about to give birth.
His family worried for Sanju. They urged him, again and again, to go visit a hospital to get his condition checked out. But Sanju felt that he couldn’t afford to take the time off of work.
He knew his family depended on him. He wouldn’t allow himself to lose the opportunity to make money for something that he considered an inconvenience.
It wasn’t until the bulge of his belly pushed against his diaphragm and caused him to stop breathing that he was finally rushed to a hospital in Mumbai. There, Sanju’s “inconvenience” would turn out to be something more shocking than anyone could have imagined.
A Medical Marvel
Dr. Ajay Mehta was one of the doctors on duty when Sanju Bhagat arrived at the hospital that day in 1999.
When he first saw Sanju come in with his giant belly that looked like it was about to burst, he naturally thought that there was a tumor inside him. With the possible tumor restricting Sanju’s respiration, Mehta got right to work and opened Sanju up.
That’s when things got weird. As soon as Dr. Mehta sliced into Sanju’s stomach, an unusual amount of fluid spilled out. Then he looked inside.
It took Dr. Mehta a moment to grasp what he was seeing. But soon the strange shapes took on meaning and he realized that what he was staring at was not a tumor – it was a human being.
As one doctor recalled, “He just put his hand inside and he said there are a lot of bones inside. 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.”
Sanju Bhagat had been living his entire life with a twin brother inside of him, living off of the contents of his stomach. Dr. Mehta was floored.
“We were horrified. We were confused and amazed…To my surprise and horror, I could shake hands with somebody inside. It was a bit shocking for me.”
Doctors were puzzled over how this could have happened. In the beginning, they believed it was related to a phenomenon known as “vanishing twin syndrome.” This occurs when one twin dies during the pregnancy and gets reabsorbed back into the mother’s body.
However, vanishing twin syndrome typically involves the death of one of the twins long before birth occurs. In Sanju’s case, his twin held on for 36 years.
Fetus in Fetu
A more accurate description of what happened to Sanju is something called “fetus in fetu.” It is a rare condition in which twins are born with one inside the other. This creates a parasitic relationship where one twin acts as the host while the other lives on in his or her body.
The thing is, in most cases of a fetus in fetu, the host twin realizes that something is wrong. It undergoes a procedure to remove the parasitic twin. In Sanju’s case, however, he ignored his swollen belly and allowed it to keep on growing for decades.
Fetus in fetu can prove to be dangerous to the host twin. It can cause problems ranging from hemorrhaging to breathing problems since having a twin inside of you puts stress on the diaphragm. And that’s precisely what happened to Sanju Bhagat.
This is an extremely rare condition with less than 100 cases worldwide. Sanju’s particular case of fetus in fetu was even more rare because of the unbelievable amount of time that he acted as host to his twin.
But as interesting as all of this may have been to the medical community, Sanju himself could care less about what was going on inside his body. After doctors extracted the lump of hair and flesh that was his twin, Sanju refused to look at it. And who can blame him?
Now, Sanju is back in his village, living what is as close to a normal life as possible considering his history. He is happy that he’s finally rid himself of something that caused him so much pain over the years, but his life is far from a fairy tale.
As always, he works every day to provide for his family. And now and again his neighbors still remind him that for much of his life, he was not Sanju Bhagat – he was the village’s “pregnant man,” who looked like he was going to give birth at any moment.
Although he’s out of harm’s way, Sanju Bhagat’s life has been marked forever by this strange and horrifying case of biology gone wrong.