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Successful 6-hour separation surgery allows formerly conjoined twins to finally go home

The idea that one is bearing twins can be shocking enough as it is, but Sandy and Jesse Fuller received more challenging news – their children were conjoined at the abdomen. But three months after their birth and a successful 6-hour surgery to separate them, the formerly conjoined twins of Sandy and Jesse Fuller were finally sent home.

Sandy was in complete shock when she found out she was pregnant with twin daughters. And later, she and her husband went through a rough time when they found out that the twins were conjoined.

She said, “[When] we found out they were conjoined, it was hard and difficult, but we trusted that God was going to work in the entire journey, so it was OK.”

Ella and Eliza were conjoined at the abdomen.

Ella and Eliza conjoined twins | Texas Children’s Hospital

The twins were conjoined at the abdomen, and shared liver tissues as well. So, the complicated process of separating the formerly conjoined twins started way before they were born.

Sandy gave birth to Ella Grace and Eliza Faith Fuller on March 1 at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, and both babies weighed 5 pounds and 10 ounces at birth.

Dr. Roopali Donepudi, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, who led Sandy’s C-section.

He said that conjoined twin pregnancies are incredibly rare and very high-risk, so it’s important that an expectant mother receive care from a highly-skilled maternal-fetal medicine team.

The parents looking at their conjoined twins.

Sandy and Jesse, parents | Texas Children’s Hospital

He added, “The prenatal testing and imaging that Sandy underwent at Texas Children’s Fetal Center were incredibly thorough, and informed not only the labor and delivery team to ensure that the mother and babies had the best birth outcome, but also allowed our neonatal and surgery colleagues to begin planning for the twins’ care while still in utero.”

The twins spent the next three months at the neonatal intensive care unit under the care of 17 medical professionals, including seven surgeons and four anesthesiologists.

The massive team was assembled for the complex operation that successfully separated the formerly conjoined twins.

In a statement, Dr. Alice King, the lead surgeon on the operation and a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, said, “Our team began planning and preparing for this operation before these babies were even born. From conducting simulations of the procedure, to collaborating extensively with our colleagues in anesthesiology, maternal-fetal medicine, neonatology and radiology, we have all been working together to achieve one common goal: the best outcome for Ella and Eliza.”

On June 14, Ella and Eliza were separated in a surgery that lasted around six hours. The medical team skillfully navigated through the intricate procedure, which included pediatric and plastic surgery.

Three days later, Sandy and Jesse were able to hold the formerly conjoined twins separately for the first time. “I think you can look at them and just see God’s goodness and how kind he’s been to us, because they’re true miracles since day one,” said Sandy.

Conjoined twins occur once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Approximately 70 percent of conjoined twins are female and approximately 75 percent of conjoined twins are joined at least partially in the chest and share organs with one another. Chances for surgery and survival are greater if the twins have separate sets of organs.

The formerly conjoined twins spent another month at the hospital to ensure their recovery. They were finally discharged on July 11 from Texas Children’s Hospital, where they were provided with excellent care since their birth.

In a video shared by the hospital, dad Jesse said, “It’s hard to explain in words exactly how excited we are. It’s been 134 days, so the feelings are overwhelming.”

The twins are expected to make a full recovery at home in the company of their older sister Emilia. The happy dad added, “I know it’s going to be another chaotic moment once we get home, but we’re excited about that chaotic moment. I’m kind of bracing myself because I know it’s going to be a wild house pretty soon, but I’m excited.”

Life may have been quite challenging this early for the formerly conjoined twins, but the children have already developed their own personalities over the first six months of life.

Physically, they can only be distinguished by a “small flat spot” that Ella has on one ear. But Sandy shared, “We say Ella is just sassy with a little bit of drama. Eliza is just more laid-back, goes with the flow. But they’re both such sweet, happy babies.”

The Fullers are understandably overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude as they begin this new chapter in their lives after the twins being formerly conjoined at the abdomen. Watch the video below:

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