Last weekend, Sacramento twin girls who were conjoined by their heads were successfully separated at UC Davis Medical Center.
Twins Abigail and Micaela Bachinskiy, who are joined by the skull, have craniopagus.
“It’s a very, very rare anomaly,” UC Davis Children’s Hospital Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Edwards said. “There are very few children born in any one year worldwide that have this anomaly, and of those, there’s only a much smaller subset that the anatomy is fortuitous enough to be able to attempt a separation — and hopefully come out with two healthy babies.”
Parents Liliya Miroshnik and Anatoliy Bachinskiy found the twins were conjoined when Liliya was just 11 weeks pregnant.
“It was very tough. I just was shocked. I couldn’t process,” Miroshnik said. “When I got home my husband said that everything will be good. We will get through it. This is our kids. We already love them.” The couple also has three boys.
“I still feeling like I am living someone else’s life and not mine,” Miroshnik shared. “It’s so crazy, I don’t even know how to describe to be honest. But I do know that we trust Lord in all of these situations. So, that brings me peace. But my other side, inside me, go crazy as a mother.”
The twins are 10-months-old.
“They both are really happy babies. Not fussy ones. Very happy, always laughing, smiling, positive,” Miroshnik said. “(They are) very different. One is more dominating. But the other is more like a lady — very calm, very gentle. But the other is very active. She is a leader for sure.”
After a few months at their home in Sacramento County, the twins were re-admitted back into UC Davis Medical Center in June to prep for surgery.
“We’ve spent a lot of time — five months — studying this from all different ways,” Dr. Edwards revealed. “We’ve made 3D models. We’ve looked at some form of altered reality, virtual reality, augmented reality to help us understand the anatomy better.”
Preparation included virtual reality dry runs, along with a mock separation surgery with dolls conjoined like Abigail and Micaela.
“It is choreographed much as in a ballet or any state production so that everybody knows their role,” UC Davis Pediatric Plastic Surgeon Dr. Granger Wong said. “Now we can actually have a model and actually do the surgery on the model beforehand. So, all this practice and all this planning can go into the operation before it even happens– therefore taking out a lot of the guesswork.”
Four months before surgery, the twins also went through a tissue expander procedure four prior to surgery to ensure each has enough skin following separation.
“Where they are joined together, there is no skin currently, and we will have to replace skin on both twins once they are divided,” Dr. Wong shared. “It’s made specifically to fit these dimensions, to fit in this little trough where the babies are connected. And then this will gradually increase in size.”
“Which would then expand the scalp. And once the scale is up to full dimensions of what we’ve already planned, we know that we have gained the necessary skin to cover the voids after separation,” Dr. Wong said. “We have a certain window that we would like to take advantage of — just developmentally.”
In total, the surgery lasted 24 hours. The hospital reported that over 30 surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, as well as other surgical staff members were part of the operation. And to keep everyone organized, they each wore different colors to signify their roles. Thankfully, it was a success!
“It was like a choreographed ballet,” Wong shared in the hospital’s press release. “It was flawless, with all contingencies covered,” added Rajvinder Dhamrait who is the director of pediatric anesthesiology.
“After 10 months of preparation, we were witnessing what we had all envisioned for the girls and we were overcome with emotion and joy,” said Aida Benitez, lead pediatric nurse at the Children’s Surgery Center. “I will never see 3:28 on a clock again and not think of the moment that Abi and Mica became two separate babies.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.