The Short of It
Doctors have successfully separated conjoined twins who were born attached below the waist at the pelvis.
A 12-hour operation has given 11-month-old sisters Ximena and Scarlett Hernandez-Torres a new lease on life. The girls were born connected and shared a colon and bladder. They also have a triplet, Catalina, who was not conjoined and was born with no health complications. There is only a one in 50 million chance that conjoined twins are born in a set of triplets.
The girls' mother Silvia Hernandez, who found out two of her triplets were conjoined three months into her pregnancy, told CBS that she, Catalina and her oldest child, 3-year-old son Raul, have been living in a nearby Ronald McDonald House since the girls were born and waiting for the surgery has been difficult.
"Since they were born, I have been waiting anxiously for them to be separated because I want to hold them separately in my arms and hold them close," she said. "But the closer the surgery day is getting, I don't want it to happen. But, of course, I want it to happen so they can have a normal life."
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The girls, who have never been out of the hospital, were baptized Saturday in their room in preparation for the surgery. "Just in case something happens like that, their soul can already be with God, before something bad happens," their father Raul Torres told NBC News.
Thankfully, everything went as planned: "We are so pleased that this complicated procedure went smoothly. The success of such a rare and challenging operation like this depends on having a skilled team of professionals working together, and I thank our great personnel for their hard work," pediatric surgeon, Dr. Haroon Patel, said in a statement.
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Their separation, which took place at the Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, required high-tech medical devices, such as a special scanner called a "spy camera" to monitor the complicated blood flow between the girls. The diverse team of medical professionals, including a urologist and plastic surgeon, trained for months prior to the surgery by using a 3-D model from a specialized MRI to map out the procedure.
How the girls were connected made the surgery especially complicated, as Patel explained: "This arrangement is fairly rare, in only about 6 percent of conjoined twins. The last time something was published like this in the U.S. was 1966."
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The girls' mother hopes they will one day be able to walk. But for now, she is enjoying seeing their individual personalities forming: "Scarlett likes to dance, sing, and she smiles a lot. Ximena is most of the time sleeping, but she smiles a lot."
The girls will require additional surgeries as they grow up, but their outlook for living a healthy life is good.