When these twins were born sharing major organs, doctors attempted a landmark 26 hours surgery. The basic desire parents feel to protect their children is a vital part of human nature. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine the helplessness one could couple must have felt as they watched their babies get wheeled off to a surgery that had never been successfully completed before. But with faith and hope. That’s exactly what the Mata family did when they decided that their conjoined twins should be separated.
However, at first, Elise and John Mata were no doubt delighted when they found out that they were expecting twins. What’s more, the Lubbock, Texas couple who were already parents to a five-year-old son, would now be adding two little girls to their family and things seemed to be progressing normally in the pregnancy until January 2014, when the couple attended a routine scan. It was then that the Modest learned the terrifying news that their twin girls were in fact conjoined.
According to data from the University of Maryland Medical Center, conjoined twins account for one in every 200,000 live births. However, approximately 40% to 60% of conjoined twins are stillborn, while about 35% will survive only the first 24 hours. So, given the seriousness of their predicament, the mottos were referred to the Texas Children’s Fetal Center. The facility has experts focused specifically on the treatment and care of babies with abnormalities, and it is able to give specialized treatment and care to unborn and newborn infants as well as their mothers. But even still, the moderators were an exceptional case.
Then, in April 2014, at 31 weeks into her pregnancy, Alyssa was scheduled for a Cesarean section and gave birth to twins Natalie and Adeline. The tiny babies weighed just £3 and 7oz each and the girls were given the middle names of faith and hope after doctors gave them a mere 20% chance of survival. The babies, it turned out, were thoracomphaloicus conjoined twins and were sharing a number of major organs. These included their heart lining, lungs, diaphragm, pelvis, chest, walls, colon, liver and intestines. Still, despite the difficulties that would be involved, it was decided that every effort should be made to separate Natalie and Adeline.
What followed then was months of preparation. Doctors simulated practice runs of the planned surgery and even created 3D models of the twin’s organs. Finally, in December 2014, Natalie and Adeline were scheduled for an operation that would be their first step towards separation. The fivehour procedure saw custommade tissue expanders placed in the girl’s chest and abdomen. Over the course of a few months, the expanders would stretch the twin skin in preparation for their final separation surgery.
Thankfully, however, this first operation went as planned on a regular basis. Additional fluid will be added to the tissue expanders which are like balloons to allow the skin to be stretched gradually. We anticipate needing extra skin to provide coverage once the babies are separated, Dr. Larry Hollier, chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital, explained in a December 2014 press release. And as everything was progressing as it should, the time soon came for the babies to have their separation surgery.
On February 17, 2015, then a team of six, anesthesiologists, eight surgical nurses and twelve surgeons assembled to complete the complex operation. None of these experts knew for certain how the procedure would go, however. An incredible 18 hours into the operation, surgeons made a breakthrough. The girls were successfully separated. The amazing feat had involved experts from a number of fields, including those in plastic surgery, cardiovascular surgery, liver transplant surgery and orthopedic surgery.
Then, after 23 grueling hours, both twins were fully separated and doing well. This surgery was not without its challenges, with a girl sharing several organ systems, pediatric surgeon Dr. Darrell Cass announced in a February 2015 press release. This is the first time a separation surgery for thoraciomphalo escalapagus twins with this particular configuration has been successful. The surgeon also revealed that the operation had affected him in a profound way.
Seeing the girls wheeled out of the operating room as separate patients on separate gurneys, the ramifications for them to live private lives was even more poignant and powerful than I expected. It literally brought tears to my eyes, Dr. Cass said to the Houston Chronicle in June 2015. And while the hospital team were no doubt over the moon by the medical advancements they had just made, no one was more happy than Natalie and Adeline’s family. We are so grateful to all of the surgeons and everyone who cared for our daughters and gave them the incredible chance to live separate lives, said Mama Lisa in the hospital’s February 2015 release.
We are so blessed to be at a place like Texas Children’s where we have access to the surgeons and caretakers that have made this dream a reality. We also want to express our gratitude to all of the people who have prayed and provided support to our family over the last ten months, she added. Finally, then, the future had begun to look bright for the girls. And although it was likely that both twins would need more operations as they got older, Dr. Cass confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that the team was very optimistic that they will both have a really great outcome.
What’s more, Natalie and Adeline could now begin their lives as two separate little girls. Still, there was work to be done during their first month apart. In fact, the girls underwent physical therapy every day. Thankfully, they made excellent progress to the point that they were able to celebrate their first birthday with a frozen themed party in the hospital. God, it’s been a year.
It went by so fast. I feel like just yesterday they were born a list reminisced on the big day. Now they’re good and healthy and hopefully headed towards home. Dr. Cassie Reid adding in an interview with today that they’ve made tremendous progress and I can’t be happier with how they’re both doing.
In fact, they’re doing shockingly well. Finally, during the summer of 2015, the mothers were able to take their baby girls home and Natalie made incredible progress quickly mastering, crawling and eventually beginning to walk. She even began eating normally. Meanwhile, Adeline, who faced more health difficulties, was still working on being able to breathe on her own. Then on February 17, 2016, the girls celebrated another milestone, the oneyear anniversary of their separation surgery.
To Mark the day, Moreover, the Texas Children’s Hospital made a video documenting Natalie and Adeline’s incredible journey. They’re reaching developmental milestones. They’re branching out and growing as individuals with separate personalities. Mama Lisa revealed in the clip, now two years old, the girls are continuing to make progress. Even dad John has admitted to today that they have far exceeded his expectations.