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“Mermaid Baby” is Walking and Happy

LIMA, Peru - Peru's "mermaid baby" walked around her nursery school yard Friday, ducking in and out of a plastic playhouse seven months after undergoing an operation to fully divide her merged legs.

Milagros Cerron, whose first name connotes "miracles" in Spanish, was born with a rare congenital defect recognized as sirenomelia, or "mermaid syndrome," which left her legs linked from her heels to her groin.

Dr. Luis Rubio, head of the medical team that divided Milagros' legs, called reporters to see her steps forward on Friday. He said doctors have successfully reconstructed the child's hips, knees and ankles and that she is "doing well physically."

But Rubio said Milagros — who is called "the little mermaid" by Peruvians — will need an extra operation in about two years to restructure and fix her urinary and sexual organs.

"We've gotten past the first phase, but it's not the end," Rubio said. "There's a long way to go."

Milagros, who turns 3 years old next week, at this time takes ballet classes and runs around the playground with her classmates.

In June 2005 doctors successfully executed risky surgery to separate her legs to above her knees. The operation seven months ago was to separate the remaining four inches of fused tissue just underneath the groin.