Conjoined twin babies Anna and Hope Richards have been given a new chance at life – after a seven-hour operation successfully separated the twins.
Born via Caesarean-section on December 29, 2016 to Jill and Michael Richards, the identical twin girls were attached at the chest and abdomen – with a large blood vessel connecting their hearts through their chest wall.
The twins’ condition, which was identified during a routine ultrasound while Jill was pregnant meant the baby girls have never left the hospital – where they shared a chest wall, lining of the heart, liver and diaphragm for the past two years.
But with the help from a team of specialists in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, the babies can sleep in separate cribs for the first time in their lives.
According to Dr Oluyinka Olutoye, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, keeping the twins alive and healthy has required intense planning since before their birth.
In a statement released by the hospital, Dr Olutoye explained the planning that went into the babies surgery – including the months of imaging, modelling, and research required before their surgery.
After confirming that it would one day be possible to separate Anna and Hope, the first step required doctors to insert tissue expanders in their chest – so that each would have enough skin to cover their organs once the surgery took place.
And on January 13 Dr Olutoye and a team of 75 surgeons, anaesthesiologists, cardiologists, and nurses began the incredibly complex task of disconnecting the girls’ hearts – which would result in the separation of the girls.
Despite the numerous risks associated with the complex and risky hours-long surgery, it was a success.
Dr Larry Hollier, surgeon-in-chief and chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children’s said in the statement: “The success of this incredibly complex surgery was the result of our dedicated team members’ hard work throughout the last year.
“Through simulations and countless planning meetings, we were able to prepare for situations that could arise during the separation. We are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to continuing to care for Anna and Hope as they recover” he said.
According to Dr Olutoye, the surgery went exactly as planned – a success he is thrilled about.
He said: “When they are conjoined twins, you can really share the family’s joy and excitement. Those girls are over a year now and from the moment this family knew that they had conjoined twins, this has been a question in there mind: ‘Will we ever get to this point? Is this day ever going to come?’ So not only did the day come but the hour came and the minute came and so being part of that moment with them is always special.”
As of now, the babies are still in the NICU recovering from the intensive surgery – but in separate beds, an incredible reality for their mum.
“It’s an indescribable feeling to look at our girls in two separate beds. We couldn’t be more thankful to the entire team at Texas Children’s for making this dream come true,” she said.
The babies will likely be sent home within a month – at which point doctors are confident they will lead healthy lives.
Those wishing to continue following the Richards family journey can follow them on their GoFundMe page.