After almost a year in intensive care, Twins born conjoined then were successfully separated and are now back home in Chicago, Today reported.
Twins Addison and Lilianna Altobelli, 10 months old, were born conjoined at the abdomen and chest, sharing a liver, diaphragm, and abdominal wall.
The little girls’ mother, Maggie Altobelli, was 20 weeks pregnant when she learned at an ultrasound appointment in August 2020 that twins were on the way and that they were connected at the abdomen.
“I was trying to find out the gender of one baby I thought we were having and then it turn out to be a little more complicated,” Maggie said on NBC’s “Today” show.
The twins were born on Nov. 18, 2020, and spent the next 10 months in intensive care at the hospital to be prepared for separation surgery.
According to a study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, the incidence of conjoined twins, which refers to twins that physically fuse in utero, is one per 50,000 to 200,000 births. In addition, he notes that the fetal death rate in these cases is high, with an estimate of about 60%, and of the separated conjoined twins, 60% survive after surgery.
Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where they underwent surgery, said the girls could be separated because they did not share a heart. Although they had a common liver, it was large enough to divide.
The preparation process included making a 3D model of the liver that both girls shared as a practice method and the use of skin expanders that were inserted into the girls to ensure that the exposed part would be covered after surgery.
“It was a surprise and it was very shocking,” said Maggie Altobelli. “But, we just thought that God gave us these girls for a reason.”
So it was that on Oct. 13, 2021, the twins were separated after a 10-hour operation. “To see them with their own bodies, their bodies were so perfect, it was amazing,” the girls’ mom said, according to the press release. “It was just indescribable.”
“They smile every single day,” father Dom Altobelli, 34, told Today. “That has really made it easier.”
On Dec. 1, the family returned to Chicago, where the twins spent two weeks at Lurie Children’s Hospital before being released for Christmas, NBC Chicago noted.
Both girls still have tracheostomy tubes and ventilators to help with their breathing until they develop more lung muscle and can perform breathing on their own, according to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“This is our journey. It’s a very special one in many ways,” Maggie told Today. “These girls are going to live long, healthy lives. It’s pretty miraculous and unbelievable that we’re living this life,” she added.