Triplets are already one of a kind, but having a conjoined twin in a triplet is something most people think is impossible. In fact, according to science this kind birth only happens once in every 200,000 live births! So when a couple, who were drug addicts failed to go on pre-natal check-ups had them — they did not know what to do! The couple decided to give up the babies up for adoption to give them a better chance of survival in life. Thankfully, another couple stepped in and helped out.
Darla and Jeff Garrison have always been foster parents to children with fragile medical conditions. However, the placement was not permanent and they’ve always wanted girls who would stay with them for a much longer period of time. Although they already have three biological kids of their own, Tyler, Matt, and Luke, they yearn to have daughters added to their nuclear family.
Sixteen years ago, their wish was granted when they welcomed to their family a unique set of triplets who were girls — and two of them are conjoined. The triplets were born in December 2002. The family first took in Madeline, when she was four days old followed by Macey and Mackenzie, the conjoined twins at four weeks old. The conjoined twins weighed 2.2 pounds each during birth and were born attached at the pelvis with entwined intestines. They had a leg each but had to share a third a non-functional limb.
In September 10, 2003, Macey and Mackenzie underwent a 24-hour multi-staged separation surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles under Pediatric Surgeon James Stein. Prior to this, their skin were prepped by stretching them out so it would easily be stitched and flapped over their wounds. It was a delicate and complex procedure but it had to be done. Darla recalls that the girls would often comfort and soothe each other.
Thankfully, the surgery was a success and Mackenzie was able to go home first after spending six weeks in the hospital. A month later, Macey was then released. Once settled, Darla and Jeff started the adoption process and two years after, the Garrison’s were finally granted the legal rights to adopt the three much to the delight of their brothers. They then moved to a farm in Indianola, Iowa because Darla and Jeff wanted them to experience a country childhood that they will always remember.
Dr. Stein said, “The girls have succeeded through hard work and the commitment by their family. Their progression is wonderful and inspiring.”
Although they once shared the same body parts and almost similar genetic make-up, the two have a contrasting personality. Macy is described to be “softer around the edges” and prefers to stay at home, said their mom. Mackenzie on the other hand is more outgoing and loves the outdoors.
Growing up, they were able to conquer different sets of challenges like — relying on their prosthesis and crutches to move around. But most of all they have family that will always be there to support them. Each one also has an ostomy bag that they need to change frequently. However, these things did not limit them from living a normal childhood complete with household chores!
Linda Kontis, a co-founder of the foster-care agency where the triplets came from said that when handicapped children are raised in an environment where they are treated like a normal kid, they also see themselves that way and this is perhaps the reason why the triplets are thriving well today.