Conjoined twin girls born nearly five months ago will be separated in a delicate but risky procedure later this year, reported KHOU 11 News.
Doctors informed Elysse Mata, of Lubbock, Texas, that her pregnancy was not progressing as expected during an ultrasound procedure at 19 weeks to learn the gender of her baby.
"Here's one head, here's the other head," Mata said the doctor told her. "And that's when I interrupted him and said wait, two heads? He said yes we think you have twins. Well, we know you have twins. But we think they're conjoined."
The girls were born at 31 weeks at Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women and weighed roughly 3 pounds, 7 ounces each. The twins are joined at the chest and abdomen, share a liver, diaphragm, pericardial sac (the lining of their hearts), and intestines.
Elysse and her husband, John, named them Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith.
"You can't have hope without faith and you can't have faith without hope," Mata told KHOU 11 News. "And if one baby would have gone, the other would too. And that was a big fear. And so right away I knew you have hope and faith."
The separation surgery is expected to happen within the next three months.
"I expect it to go well. Will it be easy? No," Dr. Stephen Welty, chief of neonatology at Texas Children's Hospital told KHOU. "The best thing to do is to do the safest thing, which is grow them up, get them bigger, more healthy with great nutrition and great developmental care and then separate them in a time which is as safe as possible."
According to Dr. Darrell L. Cass, co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center, the process will begin with the placement of tissue expanders— these will help induce growth of additional skin that will be needed after separation. The surgery, which will be conducted by two surgical teams, is risky, but Cass believes the risk is small and they anticipate an excellent outcome.