Doctors Separate Conjoined Twins Connected at the Heart & the Photos Are Incredible

Conjoined Twins
Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children’s Hospital

A pair of Texas conjoined twins have been successfully separated after an impressive surgery at Texas Children's Hospital. All though the 2-year-old identical sisters were connected at the torso and shared parts of their hearts, they are now in separate beds after an incredibly rare and complex operation.

  • Anna and Hope Richards were born attached at the chest and abdomen.

    Conjoined twins
    Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children’s Hospital

    On December 29, 2016, their mom, Jill Richards, gave birth to her twin baby girls via C-section at 35 weeks. Anna and Hope weighed a combined 9 pounds, 12 ounces. A large blood vessel connected both of their hearts and they shared a chest wall, as well as the lining of their hearts.

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  • Jill and her husband, Michael, first found out their twins were conjoined during Jill's pregnancy.

    Conjoined twins
    Paul Vincent Kuntz/Texas Children’s Hospital

    A routine ultrasound showed that the girls were attached. The family decided to temporarily relocate to Houston, where doctors at Texas Children's Hospital worked to develop a plan for a safe delivery and postnatal care. 

  • Since birth, the girls have remained in the hospital sharing parts of their heart, liver, and diaphragm.

    Conjoined twins
    Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children’s Hospital

    Over the past year, a team of specialists in the NICU have cared for Anna and Hope while their parents prayed it would one day be possible for them to live apart. 

    More form CafeMom: This Dad Delivered His Baby on the ER Floor & the Photos Are Extraordinary

  • Doctors started working on plans to separate the girls shortly after their birth.

    Conjoined twins
    Paul Vincent Kuntz/Texas Children’s Hospital

    Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, pediatric surgeon at Texas Children's Hospital, explained in a statement from the hospital that after the babies were born, doctors first had to figure out if it would even be possible to eventually separate them. And even if it was physically an option, would they be able to walk away with two healthy girls? It then took months of meticulous planning with extensive research, imaging, and 3-D modeling before doctors could perform this life-threatening operation. 

  • In order to prep for the massive operation, the girls first had to undergo a smaller procedure.

    Conjoined twins
    Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children’s Hospital

    In November 2017, the girls underwent a surgery in order to have tissue expanders placed in their chest. These would slowly stretch their skin in order to ensure that they would each have enough tissue to cover their newly separated chests after the second surgery.

  • After over a year in the NICU, it was finally the big moment: Doctors were going to attempt to separate them.

    Conjoined twins
    Paul Vincent Kuntz/Texas Children’s Hospital

    On January 13, both doctors and the girls were ready for the long-awaited separation. "We've thought about and prayed for this day for almost two years," Jill said in the statement from the hospital. 

    More from CafeMom: This Baby Rocks a 'Placenta Bag' & His Mom Doesn't Care If People Hate It

  • The massive operation took seven hours as a complex team had to delicately untwine the girls' hearts.

    Conjoined twins
    Paul Vincent Kuntz/Texas Children’s Hospital

    As Anna and Hope shared a large blood vessel that connected their partially conjoined hearts, doctors had to work to ensure that blood vessels were being properly rerouted so that neither twin lost too much blood during the operation.

  • A team of nearly 75 health-care professionals worked together during the high-risk operation.

    Conjoined twins
    Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children’s Hospital

    The team included anesthesiologists, cardiologists, and nurses from eight specialties collaborating on the surgery.

    "The success of this incredibly complex surgery was the result of our dedicated team members' hard work throughout the last year," Dr. Larry Hollier, surgeon-in-chief and chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children's, said in the statement. "Through simulations and countless planning meetings, we were able to prepare for situations that could arise during the separation. We are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to continuing to care for Anna and Hope as they recover." 

  • Their work paid off and the girls were successfully separated.

    Conjoined twins
    Paul Vincent Kuntz/Texas Children’s Hospital

    Dr. Olutoye said everything with their plan went better than expected throughout the surgery. "These are the kinds of procedures you plan for the worst and hope for the best and we were very blessed that this was the best case-scenario," he said. "Everything we had rehearsed, everything we had planned, everything we had simulated … everything went as well as we could have hoped."

    He added, "When they are conjoined twins, you can really share the family's joy and excitement. Those girls are over a year now and from the moment this family knew that they had conjoined twins, this has been a question in there mind: 'Will we ever get to this point? Is this day ever going to come?' So not only did the day come but the hour came and the minute came and so being part of that moment with them is always special."

  • The girls will recover in the NICU until they are strong enough to go home.

    Conjoined twins
    Paul Vincent Kuntz/Texas Children’s Hospital

    The girls were sedated during the days immediately after the surgery, but doctors are thrilled with their progress as they're waking up and starting to move around. "It's an indescribable feeling to look at our girls in two separate beds," Jill said. "We couldn't be more thankful to the entire team at Texas Children's for making this dream come true."

  • And in the meantime, their family can't help but cherish how far they've come.

    Conjoined twins
    Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children’s Hospital

    "We are so very blessed and thankful. We are truly grateful for God's gifts and the medical staff at Texas Children's Hospital," the family wrote on a Go Fund Me page set up to help with the girls' medical costs. "The girls are both doing well given the extent of the surgery they underwent. Anna is a little ahead of Hope and is off the ventilator. She is very active and vocal ... Hope still remains on the vent, but she is making great progress. She may continue to need extra breathing support for a while. So much was changed in her little chest in those 7 hours of surgery."

  • Mom, Dad, and their two older brothers are cheering the girls on as doctors remain optimistic.

    Conjoined twins
    Paul Vincent Kuntz/Texas Children’s Hospital

    Olutoye feels confident that the girls will have happy and healthy lives ahead and looks forward to the day that they come running into his office, and he can pick each of them up into his arms to say hello. 

    "We can't thank enough those who have given love, prayer, and financial support. So many have prayed and worked tirelessly to get us where we are today," Jill added. "It is so humbling to think of where we have come from and where we are today."

twins & multiples