‘And then there were two’: Conjoined twins separated in 16-hour surgery – Sacramento Bee

Posted by on Oct 15th, 2016 and filed under Medical News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

‘And then there were two’: Conjoined twins separated in 16-hour surgery – Sacramento Bee

Before she sent her 13-month old twins into the biggest surgery of their lives Wednesday night, Nicole McDonald sang them to sleep.

It was one of the last moments McDonald, who gave birth to conjoined twins Anias and Jadon last fall, would see them as they were born: with their heads fused together, lying in a single bed at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

But after a year of preparing for the nearly day-long operation ahead, she said she felt at peace, in a Facebook post that night. “Bring it October 13!! You ain’t got nothing on us!!” she wrote.

Hundreds of thousands of people followed the McDonalds through a live broadcast on CNN the following day in an ambitious surgery that CNN reported was only 59th of its kind performed in the last 64 years. Early Friday morning, both twins were successfully separated in the operating room after a grueling overnight operation.

“TWO SEPARATE BABIES!!!,” McDonald wrote Friday morning after the surgery was complete. “[A]nd yet I ache with the uncertainty of the future. I didn’t cry until the surgeons left the room. I was barely able to even utter the words ‘thank you’ because of the pit that still sits heavy in my stomach. We are standing on the brink of a vast unknown.”

The next several months, she added, will be spent monitoring how they recover from the separation and if complications develop. “We will not know for sure how Anias and Jadon are recovering for many weeks,” she wrote.

Before undergoing the rare and lifethreatening surgery, Anias and Jadon were happy, if not healthy, babies in the McDonald household.

McDonald, who already had one toddler son with her husband, had not expected twins when she discovered she was pregnant in March of last year. Yet the news that followed her first ultrasounds was gutting: Her twins, she was told, were conjoined at the head and brain. The chances of such a conjoinment are about one in 10 million. “So far in all of my research I have yet to find a set of twins like mine born in the United States in the last 20 years,” she wrote in a GoFundMe request shortly after their birth.

When she was offered the option to abort her pregnancy, McDonald said no.

“I had heard their heart beats…they spent their life listening to mine,” she recalled. “It was my job as their mother to give them life and I decided that I would give everything up, if need be, to do so.”

She wrote that after she discovered they would be born conjoined, she began researching other cases immediately. She found a surgeon who had separated twins like hers in the past and resolved to move forward. “I stopped crying tears of fear that day and never looked back,” she wrote.

The babies were born September 9, 2015 and immediately sent to the intensive care unit. The next year, she wrote, would be filled with long hospital visits and surgeries in quick succession. The goal of all the surgeries: to redirect blood flow more evenly between each of her twins and prepare their joined skulls for the difficult, challenging task of separating them at last.

The doctor who would eventually lead the separation surgery, James T. Goodrich, last separated conjoined twins 12 years ago at the same hospital where he operated on the McDonald twins. None of the twins he had ever separated, CNN reported, had died during his operations.

Thursday’s surgery, which stretched into the early hours of the following day, was “right there on top” of the most difficult surgeries he had ever performed, McDonald recalled him saying in another Facebook post after the boys were separated.

And as of Friday morning, the work was not done: Anias was still in surgery as doctors worked to wrap up the operation, she added.

But the separation itself, many months in the making, was complete. McDonald thanked supporters, who have donated more than $ 100,000 since her GoFundMe started last year in several posts during and after the initial operation.

Even after the months of planning and preparing for their separation, she reflected that even she had not fully absorbed the news when she was told the first of her babies would be coming out of the operating room.

“When they told me they were wheeling Jadon up first, it took me a second to comprehend,” she wrote Friday morning. “I actually asked why they rearranged the room because I hadn’t really internalized the idea that there would be 2 beds in here. Welcome back my sweet Jadon. Happy rebirth day.”

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