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PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala - The orange tiger toy danced and fell across the white sheets of the hospital bed, as two-year-old Thiago Palencia played while waiting impatiently for something to happen. He spent half an hour surrounded by the tan walls and dark red floor of the pre-operation waiting room. People continued to walk past him in their dark-blue scrubs and white lab coats. Some stopped to speak to him, but he just hugged the right corner of his bed in an attempt to avoid them. His mother, Ms. Palencia, smiled at him gently and tussled his hair in an attempt to calm him down. But Thiago whined in protest, moved his head away and continued to play with his toy. Why would his mother bring him from home, to a small boat, to a large boat, and to the hospital within? What was going on?
Since his birth in 2020, Thiago has lived with two conditions common in the Central American region but not typically seen together: syndactylism and polydactylism. In short, Thiago was born with six fingers and six toes, and his second and third fingers and toes were fused together. While his feet could function with these conditions, the fusion of his two fingers on both hands restricted his ability to use his hands properly.
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