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Twins' Fate Highlights Heartbreak of Syria

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At sunrise Tuesday, an 18-year-old Syrian refugee walked into Taanayel Hospital in Lebanon, pregnant with twins and ready to give birth — two months early.

The fate of Ahed Hussein and her babies, already grim, has become even more uncertain in a country where three years of civil strife have decimated Syria's medical system, leaving pregnant women and children with little or no care. Not far away in the hospital, another child is suspected to be Lebanon’s first case of polio.

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A nurse tends to a newborn baby in Taanayel hospital in Chtaura, Lebanon, on Tuesday. The baby, born two months premature, was one of two twins born overnight. Only one survived. Her mother, Ahed Hussein, 18, is a Syrian refugee who fled the war in Syria.Jerome Delay / AP Images for NBC News

Refugees like Hussein have been pouring across the Syrian border into Lebanon, flooding medical facilities like this one, where doctors quickly realized that her case was dire. What started as a routine cesarean section quickly becomes a hurried, vaginal birth without pain medication. And with two babies, the risks only multiply, according to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News' Chief Medical Correspondent.

The first infant, a girl, was born weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces.

Ahed Hussein, 18, weeps as she learns that only one of her two twin premature newborn daughters survived
Ahed Hussein, 18, a Syrian refugee who fled the war in Syria, weeps as she learns from Dr. Rochdy Della that only one of her twin premature newborn daughters survived the birth in Chtaura's hospital in Chtaura, Lebanon, on Tuesday.Jerome Delay / AP Images for NBC News

The second baby, also a girl, dubbed Baby B, wasn't breathing and clearly had severe birth defects.

Doctors kept the news from the young mother all morning, but in the early afternoon, they could delay no longer.

The second baby died, they say. But in the inexplicable lottery of this war-torn land, the first child lived.

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Ahed Hussein, 18, holds the railing in the elevator taking her down from the pediatric ward where she saw her premature newborn daughter in Taanayel hospital in Chtaura, Lebanon, on Tuesday. Ahed was discharged and her daughter will stay in observation.Jerome Delay / for NBC News

Hussein was taken to the pediatric ward to see her surviving daughter, but was discharged soon after.

Baby A, not yet named, stayed behind in an incubator in the neonatal ICU, receiving oxygen. Her fate — and her mother's — remained uncertain in a land where death and new life spring from the same source.

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