FORT WORTH, Texas – A team of doctors successfully performed Cook Children’s Medical Center’s first-ever conjoined twin separation surgery.
“It was a scary journey because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said father James Finley.
Three months into their pregnancy Finley and Amanda Arciniega learned their twin girls were conjoined.
The twins, Jamie Lynn and Amie Lynn, were joined from the lower chest to their belly button and shared a liver.
(Courtesy: Cook Children’s)
“One of the questions they asked when I saw them at three months pregnant was ‘Do we need to go somewhere else?’ And that to me was a very important question,” said Dr. Ben Gbulie, a plastic surgeon at Cook Children’s.
The hospital’s answer to that question: no.
The family’s emotional journey to separate their babies was detailed in a large scale news conference at the hospital complete with a video.
“On the ride home we were just quiet. We were like thank you, but out of all we were like, why us?” said Arciniega through tears.
The work to assemble a world-class team began.
The complexity of what they faced was all documented, from months of planning to the day and minutes before surgery.
“We had to work to find the ideal time timing for when to do this. They were born at 34 weeks, they were a little early ,so we had to grow them and get them a little bit bigger. We got to a point where their positioning was a real challenge,” said neonatologist Dr. Chad Barber.
In the operating room there were two full medical teams, one for each baby girl.
It took five hours in the OR just to prepare before the procedure began, it lasted hours and ended successfully.
The parents broke down in tears upon hearing the surgery was a success.
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Bishop TD Jakes, pastor of the twins’ grandmother, was a spiritual counselor for the family.
“I asked everybody from all over the country to pray. We’re just so happy to see the good outcome that came out of this. The doctors did such an amazing job. I’m so inspired,” said Jakes.
“Like a lot of doctors told us the truth, the survival rate after birth. A lot of conjoined twins don’t live that long, and so we’ve learned how to be strong,” said Finley.
“I want to thank Anita and James for the trust you put in us. I hope you can see there’s not just another patient to us. We really love your girls,” said neonatologist Mary Frances.
During Wednesday’s announcement one of the surgeons said the girls can now sleep in their own beds, and grow and develop on their own.