A mom from North Texas had been hoping and praying that her conjoined identical twins could be separated one day. Her dreams finally came true two years later after more than 50 doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to separate them in a seven-hour-long surgery.
When Jill Richards, a mother of two boys, learned that she was pregnant with conjoined twins, she and her family moved to Houston for Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, to treat her twins.
“First question parents ask is what will be the outcome for my children,” Dr. Olutoye told KHOU11. “And are they going to be separable?”
Fortunately, the surgeons at the hospital discovered that the twins could lead separate lives.
After Richards gave birth to Anna Grace and Hope Elizabeth on Dec. 29, 2016, via C-section, a team of specialists at the hospital looked after them at the neonatal intensive care unit while preparing for the separation surgery.
The team took a year to plan the surgery for the twins, who were conjoined at their chest and abdomen. They were sharing a diaphragm, liver, and part of their heart.
“We prepared all plans, A, B, C, D just simulating all the things that could possibly go wrong,” Dr. Olutoye said.
On Jan. 13, the twins were wheeled into the operation room and were successfully separated seven hours later by a team consisting of almost 75 surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, and nurses.
“This is not a one man show, not even a five man show,” Dr. Olutoye said. “You need more than a football team to do this.”
“They have two separate hearts, but they were fused with a bridging vein,” Dr. Olutoye explained.
When Richards and her husband, Michael, heard the news, they were in tears.
“You obviously hold your breath until that final moment,” Dr. Olutoye said.
Dr. Olutoye added that when the surgery was completed, “there were cheers in the operating room and high fives.”
“We’ve thought about and prayed for this day for almost two years,” Richards later said. “It’s an indescribable feeling to look at our girls in two separate beds. We couldn’t be more thankful to the entire team at Texas Children’s for making this dream come true.”
And in early March, one of the twins, Anna, was discharged after 428 days, per a statement from the hospital.