After 485 days at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, formerly conjoined twins Erin and Abby Delaney were discharged to return home to North Carolina, just in time for Thanksgiving.
"The girls are inspiring," Heather Delaney, Erin and Abby's mom, said in a statement. "As their parents, it is very neat for Riley [Delaney, their father] and me to have a front-row seat to this and watch them overcome these incredible obstacles. We cannot wait to see what their future holds!"
Conjoined Since Birth
When Heather was just 11 weeks pregnant, she found out that she was carrying conjoined twins.
“Riley and I already love our children more than we could possibly imagine, and that is what makes it so hard,” she wrote in March 2016 after the ultrasound.
Being joined at the head is particularly dangerous because if more than a little brain tissue is shared, the twins would die during pregnancy or in the first few days after birth.
The twin girls were born by C-section joined at the head on July 24, 2016, about 8 weeks premature. Each girl weighed only 2 pounds and 1 ounce.
That's when doctors went to work to try and figure out how to separate the girls.
“Abby would be left with very little [of the sinus], meaning that Abby would have a much harder time and a much greater chance of death,” Heather wrote. “When you are told that sort of information, your world stops.”
The doctors were optimistic about the surgery.
“We know that children heal better and faster the younger they are, therefore our goal for Erin and Abby was separation as soon as possible with minimum number of surgeries,” reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Jesse Taylor said.
Surgery to Separate
This past June when they were 10 months old, the twins underwent the rare surgery to have them separated.
With 30 people involved in the complex surgery, it ended up taking 11-hours and was only the 24th of it's kind at the hospital.
The girls suffered complications, including brain bleeds, after the surgery and were even placed in an induced coma for a few weeks while they recovered.
“All you want to do is will your child to get better because that is all you can do,” she said.
The Recovery Process
Months after their surgery, the girls have been able to tackle life's milestones separately. Now being able to sit up on their own, roll over, crawl and be carried separately in their parents's arms, they are thriving.
"The girls are doing well since being separated. Both have been in rehab for about a month now and are progressing more and more each day. We have tough times but we get through and we are bound to have more. But with God all things are possible and He has such a special plan for these girls and we love watching that plan unfold," they wrote on their Go Fund Me page.
Now at 15-months-old, the girls have spent their entire lives in hospital until Erin was discharged last month.
Abby remained in hospital still recovering.
"She has a little trouble managing her secretions so she can have a little trouble breathing sometimes, but it is getting better every day," Heather wrote.
Heather remained hopeful that their family would be together for the holidays this year.
"We will hopefully be able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas at home this year and we are beyond thrilled about it!" she wrote.
And now that dream has now become a reality.
Five months after the risky surgery, both girls are thriving and were sent home to North Carolina, just in time for Thanksgiving.
This surgery is extremely rare and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has only separated 24 sets of conjoined twins since 1957.
As they mature, the girls will require additional surgeries, but their medical team is optimistic about their futures.
“The team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has become like family,” Heather said. “Riley and I are so grateful for the care our girls have received here and so excited to take them home — just in time for the holidays.”
Congratulations to the family! Enjoy the holidays.