The conjoined twins were discovered during an ultrasound on January 19, 2014. The Mata’s were fully informed concerning the statistics of conjoined twins and their survival rate, which would be even less if a separation was attempted after birth. Elysse and Eric Mata decided that they were going to carry the twins and leave it up to God. This was not an easy task as the odds were stacked high against them.
Each year 200,000 conjoined twins are born, out of those 200,000, 60 percent of those conjoined twins are stillborn, beyond that, 35 percent of the conjoined twins born live one day and 5 to 25 percent survive. Conjoined twins, Adeline Faith and Knatalye Hope were born nine weeks early on April 11, 2014. Each of the previously conjoined twins weighed 3 pounds and 7 ounces.
Knatalye and Adeline, however, were joined at the lungs, chest wall, part of the heart’s lining, the diaphragm, liver, intestines, pelvis and colon. There had never been a successful thoraco-omphalo-ischiopagus separation of conjoined twins with this configuration. However, both girls had their own beating hearts so surgery was hopeful. Still, the surgery would be risky and the survival rate of separating the conjoined twins was low.
Dr. Darrell Cass, associate professor of surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center, and pediatric surgeon, put together a team that included experts to build a 3-D model of the conjoined girls’ organs. These 3-D models were used for simulations to practice the actual surgery. This was the most complicated surgery this team has ever performed. The surgical team consisted of six anesthesiologists, eight nurses and twelve surgeons.
It was determined that after ten months of being in the neonatal intensive care unit the conjoined twins, Hope and Faith were ready to be separated, survival was hopeful. The surgery was February 17, 2015. The first surgery involved inserting balloons of saline under their skin. This was to stretch their skin so they would have enough skin to cover the joined organs after they were separated.
It took six hours of preparation before the first incision was made. Elysse and Eric got a phone call updating them every two hours. At one point they were called up for a face-to-face update. They were told that the twins experienced a fair amount of bleeding after the liver was divided. Also, Adeline’s heart rate had slowed down, however her heart rate was back up and they were proceeding with the surgery.
Five hours after the surgery began, there was a problem with Adeline’s blood pressure. The team had to manually pump her heart for five to eight minutes to resuscitate her. The full surgery took 23 hours on Knatalye and 26 hours on Adeline. The conjoined twins were officially separated after 18 hours of surgery.
The conjoined twins have successfully survived the surgery and are back in the neonatal intensive care unit where they will be for some time. There will be a need for more surgeries and more high-end care as time goes on that could cost the family millions of dollars in medical expenses. A Facebook page has been created entitled, “Helping Hope and Faith”. The Facebook page gives information about the girls’ recovery and also offers a way to donate money to help the family with their expenses.
Dr. Cass stated when it was all over that seeing the girls separated and knowing they could live separate lives, he was so overwhelmed it brought tears to his eyes.
By Jeanette Smith