On October 3rd of last year, James Finley and Amanda Arciniega of Saginaw, Texas gave birth to a set of conjoined twins – baby girls named AmieLynn and JamieLynn. While the couple was happy to finally hold the newest additions to their family, there was a bit of concern over their health and overall future.
At just 16 weeks old, the family held their breath as doctors and surgeons at Cook Children’s Medical Center attempted to separate the two girls. It was the first time the children’s hospital had attempted such a ‘rare’ and ‘groundbreaking’ surgery, as one of the doctors explained it, and it went splendidly.
On Monday, after 11 hours and with the help of 25 medical professionals, the conjoined twins were successfully separated. It was somewhat of a miracle, considering the toddlers were joined from the lower breastbone to the belly button. Adding to the complications, the twins were sharing the same liver.
Dr. Ben Gbulie, who practices plastic surgery at the children’s hospital, expressed how rare of a surgery this is and praised the team for their dedication. “There is no medical book you’re going to open and it says, ‘Step one: conjoined twins separation.’ That does not exist because of the rarity of this,” he said.
Of the 25 medical professionals that worked on the surgery, six of them were surgeons and they were led by Dr. José Iglesias. Their success goes to show just how much we can accomplish when we put our minds to it. With teamwork, diligence, and a little bit of human spirit, we can do just about anything.
Finley and Arciniega, who are now parents of five, originally learned they were having twins during an ultrasound at 10 weeks – at the time, there was little to no separation between AmieLynn and JamieLynn. It wasn’t until their next appointment that they learned that their daughters were, in fact, conjoined twins.
The babies were confirmed as candidates for separation when doctors learned they had their own hearts and heart sacs. Since they were joined at the abdomen and also shared at least one organ together, the congenital twins are technically considered omphalopagus twins. Now, they’ve officially been separated.
Will the Conjoined Twins Live a Happy, Healthy, and Normal Life?
According to the University of Minnesota, conjoined twins only occur once in every 200,000 live births, and – believe it or not – 70% of all conjoined twins are female. Conjoined twins can be joined at various parts of the body, including the chest, abdomen (like AmieLynn and JamieLynn), spine, pelvis, turn, or head.
“I’m very hopeful that they’re going to have a good recovery and lead healthy lives in the future. They’re going to have a bit of a ramp up from the recovery, but I think they’re going to be able to get there eventually, and very close to normal if not completely normal,” said Dr. Iglesias, who led the surgery.
Dr. Mary Frances Lynch, a neonatologist at Cook Children’s Medical Center, talked about how important it was to do the surgery at this point in their lives. “Separation now will benefit [the twins] by allowing them to continue reaching important growth and development milestones in their individual health journeys.”
In an interview following the surgery, James Finley (the father) talked about the journey. “Sometimes I feel like I need to be the strength and pillar of my family and that’s what I am. We didn’t think it was gonna happen. A lot of doctors told us that a lot of conjoined twins don’t live that long,” he explained.
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