A conjoined pair of twin boys have been successfully separated after a successful 16 hour surgery done at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. Some facts about the twins are:
- They are only 13 months old.
- They are known as craniopagus twins.
- Their from Braidwood, Illinois.
The boys, Anias and Jadon were sharing 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter of brain tissue between them. This is one of the most advanced and difficult separation operations ever done. And it was done successfully.
Craniopagus twins are one of the hardest types of conjoined twins to operate on. 40 percent are born ‘still born’ and 80 percent of them die before the age of two. The doctor heading up the operation is considered the national expert in this niche field of medicine. His name is Dr. James Goodrich.
The twins parents, Nicole and Christian McDonald found out the twins they were carrying were conjoined during a routine ultrasound in May of 2015.
Twins are already enough extra work, but twins that are joined at head? The obstacles are huge and the statistics scary.
Their parents knew the boys would have severe limitations if they did not separate them, so they made the difficult decision to go ahead with the risk surgery that could result in their deaths.
Their father, Christian, told CNN ‘We know that is definitely a real possibility, but we’re still going to love our boys.’
Dr. James Goodrich has already separated seven sets of twins. He opened up to CNN about separation surgery which he says is ‘actually pretty awesome.’
‘It’s chaotic. You’re trying to get two kids on two tables…The problem is when you have nothing holding the brain in because the brain can actually slip and fall out. So, it’s quite a treat to get them repositioned.’
Leading up to this 2.5 million surgery the twins had to undergo 3 surgeries that were aimed at making sure they had enough skin by the final surgery to cover their entire scalps.
This was done by doctors inserting tissue expanders into the heads. Dr. Goodrich said ‘This is about as complicated as it gets.’
The twins were born on September 9, 2015. Their father told CNN ‘They were normal little boys, like any other two little babies you would expect to see – except for being conjoined.’
On the morning of Oct 14, 2016 the boys were wheeled into surgery to give them a second chance at life. Their mother, Nicole, gave updates throughout the 16 hour surgery on Facebook.
Her first update a couple hours into the surgery said: ‘No news is good news, I suppose. They have made their way around to the side of the boys’ skull and will be reaching the dreaded area of shared brain tissue around 5 o’clock NY time. Everything is going well overall and the boys are tolerating anesthesia just fine. So far everything they are doing surgically has been done before.’
For the second update she posted: ‘The fourth and final stage of the procedure is beginning. They are repositioning the boys and preparing to open the final area of their skull. Anias is beginning to sound very congested. With the last surgery, prolonged anesthesia and prone positioning causing fluid to accumulate in his lungs and was eventually what caused him to go into heart failure. I pray this is not the case this go-round.’
Unfortunately for Anias, being conjoined was a lot harder for him than his brother. His mother said ‘He’s got breathing issues and feeding issues.’
Anias was also in surgery for longer than his brother. When they were finally separated they took Jadon out and Anias stayed on the surgery table. His mother wrote: ‘They had to reopen Anias’ incision. He’s still in surgery. No idea how much longer it will be. My heart aches for him all alone down there without his brother. Such a scary time to be alone.’ Anias would be out of surgery 5 hours after his brother.
After the exhausting surgery Dr. Goodrich simply said ‘Well, we did it.’ It ended up being much more complicated than originally anticipated because all the high-res imaging they did, did not really show how intertwined their vasculature really was.
The boys can leave this behind them now and will focus on learning how to walk, sit up, crawl, and sleep alone in the next couple of months. Their parents made a hard decision but because of it these boys will live a much happier and fulfilled life. Their mother poignantly wrote at the end of their surgery: ‘Finally reunited. How surreal. I now realize that I always saw you as separate because seeing you like this is really nothing different to me. When I stand at your bedside, Jadon, it’s almost as if Anias is still there. Anias, when I leaned over you I protected my hair from Jadon. But the view is still the same. This is how I always saw you. I love you so much. Now it’s time to step forward into the new chapter of our life. I’m ready to fight and I know you are too. Thank you, Dr Goodrich, Dr Tepper, Kamilah, Martine, Dr Kahana, Dr Mann and everyone else at Montefiore. Your hands performed a miracle today. We love you.’