NEW YORK – Six days after a delicate 17-hour operation that separated their joined heads, 2-year-old twins Carl and Clarence Aguirre (search) were allowed to emerge from sedation Tuesday, waking up enough to see each other directly for the first time.
The momentous event was mostly lost on the Aguirre boys, who seemed to prefer looking at a television and their mother, only occasionally glancing at each other while drifting in and out of sleep.
An Associated Press reporter and photographer were allowed into the twins' room in the pediatric intensive care unit. Until Tuesday, the toddlers had seen each other's faces only in mirrors and photographs.
Clarence reached for a rattle held by a nurse. Both followed their mother, Arlene Aguirre, with their eyes and they watched children's programs on a television set above their beds.
Aguirre gently coaxed them to look at each other. "Carl, where's your brother?" she murmured. "Clarence, where's your brother?"
The boys' plastic surgeon, Dr. David Staffenberg, also took up the cause.
"Clarence, look at your brother," he said. But nothing happened and Staffenberg tried again. "He never listens."
After their beds were moved to make it easier, Clarence did appear to look at Carl, but Carl was snoozing.
Doctors said they were extremely pleased by the progress of the twins from the Philippines.
"We really expected them to do well but they've exceeded our best expectations," said Staffenberg, who helped separate them in a series of four major operations spaced over 11 months.
"This is by far the earliest time babies like this have been able to come off the ventilator," Staffenberg said. "They have been moving along at light speed."
"It's unbelievable," agreed the boys' pediatrician, Dr. Robert Marion.
Now that they can sit up, Clarence and Carl will soon be able to eat instead of being fed through a tube, Marion said. Physical therapists will teach them to walk.
Dr. Lewis Singer, the hospital's chief of pediatric intensive care, said an accumulation of fluid on Carl's brain, mentioned at a news conference Monday, had still not become a serious issue.
"From a neurological point of view we have seen no deficit in either of these kids," said their neurosurgeon, Dr. James Goodrich. He said it would be two to three weeks "before I really know things are well healed up and the issues that we're worried about post-operatively have cleared."