The 10 Year Old Mermaid Beats Odds


Ten years ago, Shiloh Pepin was born with a rare birth defect called sirenomelia, mermaid syndrome. Most of these infants die within 72 hours. Shiloh has beaten those odds.

Sirenomelia is estimated to occurs in only one in 60 - 100,000 births. More than half the cases result in stillbirth. In addition to having her legs fused together, Shiloh was also born with no rectum, uterus, genitals or bladder and with only a fourth of a kidney.

Sirenomelia is a rare lethal malformation characterized by severe anomalies of the lower (caudal) part of the fetus. It is estimated to occur in 1 in 100,000 births. The syndrome develops during the very early fetal development, through a diversion of the blood flow from the caudal structures [muscles, bones, cartilages, nerves and blood vessels] of the embryo to the placenta, explains Sanger.


The lack of blood flow to the extremities results in the fusion of the lower limbs which creates the malformation which gives the syndrome its name is the single lower limb. There is various degrees of involvement ranging from one femur to two separate femurs in the same skin shaft. There may be two feet (sympode mermaid) or one foot (monopode mermaid) or not feet (ectromelic mermaid).

There also are severe abnormalities of the bladder and kidney (urogenital anomalies). These include bilateral renal agenesis, absence of outflow tract and absence of external genitalia. Imperforate anus and sacro-coccygeal agenesis have also been reported.

Shiloh survived at birth and is now 10 years old. There have been many medical issues during that 10 years. She has appeared in a documentary, “The Little Mermaid.” The family maintains a website,, to raise money for the medical treatments which have been extensive and will continue to be.

Shiloh optimistically explains her situation, saying: “Some people are the same. Some people are different. Some people are short. Some people are tall. Look, I’m not saying this all together, but some people just like the way I am.”