A year ago today, we faced one of the most challenging surgical cases many of us had seen in our careers: the separation of then 10-month-old conjoined twin girls, Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata. The girls spent nearly a year of their lives in our neonatal intensive care unit and they were finally ready for the complex surgery that we hoped would give them a chance to lead independent lives. Our surgical team spent almost a year preparing for this surgery, planning extensively and patiently waiting for the girls to grow and become stronger.
During their separation surgery on Feb. 17, 2015, a team of more than 26 clinicians including 12 surgeons, six anesthesiologists and eight surgical nurses, among others, worked together to separate the girls who shared a chest wall, lungs, pericardial sac (the lining of the heart), diaphragm, liver, intestines, colon and pelvis. The official separation occurred approximately 18 hours into the surgery. I still remember the “countdown” we did before completely separating the girls and moving them to their own beds to complete their surgeries.
From the very start, I always said that my hope was that the girls would walk into kindergarten one day, hand-in-hand. Having seen them recently for some follow-up visits, I can see they are many steps closer to that reality.
Since being discharged, both girls are doing so well! Neither Knatalye nor Adeline have experienced complications and they’re both making steady progress and reaching developmental milestones. They also continue to show off their separate personalities.
Knatalye can crawl and is starting to walk! She’s also learning to eat by mouth, but so far she has not been too enthusiastic.
Adeline has made good progress as well and is scooting around. Her lungs continue to improve and we are slowly weaning back her ventilator support. She is undergoing speech and physical therapy and is also working on eating.
It has been an honor to care for these girls and a joy to watch them continue to grow.