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Conjoined Twin Girls Separated At Texas Children's Hospital

A set of conjoined twin girls have been successfully separated at a Texas Children's Hospital.

For 13-month-old twin girls Anna Grace and Hope Elizabeth Richards they spent the beginning of their lives sharing a liver, diaphragm and part of their heart.

The girls spent much of their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit, until they had their seven-hour surgery to separate them in January 2018.

The twins are now recovering in their own beds at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

"We've thought about and prayed for this day for almost two years," their mother, Jill Richards said, "it's an indescribable feeling to look at our girls in two separate beds."

One in every 200,000 live births in the world are to conjoined twins. Even with advancement in technology only about 35 percent of those babies live a day after their birth.

Since conjoined twins are a rare occurrence, the causes behind the condition are still unknown. Most living conjoined twins, tend to be girls, with a survival rate of 70 percent, compared to boys.

Twins girls also tend to be more resilient to the stresses of being separated, with at least one twin surviving 75 percent of the time.

The Pregnancy

Jill and her husband Michael found out that the twins were conjoined through a routine ultrasound during their pregnancy. At the time, the family did not know if it was possible that the girls could be separated and live life as two individuals.

The couple also have older sons Seth and Collin.  

The Delivery

Anna and Hope were delivered by C-Section at 35 weeks in the pregnancy on December 29, 2016, weighing a combined total of 9 lbs 12 oz.

"First question parents ask is what will be the outcome for my children," said Dr. Olutoye, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children's Hospital. "And are they going to be separable?"

Being Separated

On January 13, 2018, Jill and Michael said goodbye to the girls as the team of doctors wheeled them in for surgery.

"This is not a one man show, not even a five man show," said Olutoye. "You need more more than a football team to do this."

His team consisted of 75 surgeons, specialists and nurses had been practicing the delicate surgery they would be performing on their heart, diaphragm and liver that would pump blood sources to the newly formed two hearts.

"Through simulations and countless planning meetings, we were able to prepare for situations that could arise during the separation," said Dr. Larry Hollier, the surgeon-in-chief and chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children's Hospital.

For hours the surgeons followed their plan to separate the girls.

"You obviously hold your breath until that final moment," said Olutoye.

Seven hours later the girls were wheeled out of the operating room, for the first time in their lives as two separate people.

In recovery the girls were able to be in separate beds for the first time.

"We are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to continuing to care for Anna and Hope as they recover," he added.

The girls will stay in the neonatal intensive care unit until they are strong enough to join their family at home.

This is one of many success stories of separating conjoined twins in recent years. Read about Erin and Abbey here, and Eva and Erika here.

Source: Daily Mail / KHOU11