Strong Mom In Her Journey Of Trying To Regain Life For Her Cᴏɴᴊᴏɪɴᴇᴅ Twins , She Was Inspiring For Another One Like Her Children
In October, they ᴏᴘᴇʀᴀᴛᴇᴅ on the twins to ᴄᴜᴛ through the ʙᴏɴᴇ where the sᴋᴜʟʟs were ᴊᴏɪɴᴇᴅ, and to place a device that would be used to gradually ᴘᴜsʜ the two apart. Called “distraction,” the process would add one or two millimeters of sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ a day. Similar procedures had been used successfully in other types of reconstructive sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ, but this was a new technique in the sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ of ᴄᴏɴᴊᴏɪɴᴇᴅ twins. The distraction process added more than an inch of sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ.
Over the next five months, the girls had several more sᴜʀɢᴇʀɪᴇs as steps toward sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ, including the placement of tissue expanders below the sᴋɪɴ where their ʜᴇᴀᴅs were ᴊᴏɪɴᴇᴅ. Like water balloons, the expanders were gradually filled with Fʟᴜɪᴅ to slowly stretch the sᴋɪɴ. The extra sᴋɪɴ was needed to cover the gap when the twins were sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛᴇᴅ. While the sᴜʀɢɪᴄᴀʟ team worked and planned, Heather and Riley and the rest of the ᴍᴇᴅɪᴄᴀʟ team took care of the twins, who were growing wonderfully. Over the next few months they hit all the major developmental milestones, rewarding their parents with their first smiles in November.
One becomes two: The sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ. On June 6, 2017, more than 10 months after they were born, the girls were sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛᴇᴅ during an 11-hour sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ . A team of approximately 30 people, including sᴜʀɢᴇᴏɴs, ɴᴜʀsᴇs, ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇsɪᴏʟᴏɢɪsᴛs and other staff, worked together during this complex, high-ʀɪsᴋ sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ. Each baby was monitored by a sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛᴇ ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇsɪᴏʟᴏɢʏ team, led by Alison Reed Perate, MD, and Matthew Pearsall, MD. Three ɴᴇᴜʀᴏsᴜʀɢᴇᴏɴs worked for hours to sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ flow between the two girls. This ʀᴇǫᴜɪʀᴇᴅ ᴄᴀᴜᴛᴇʀɪᴢɪɴɢ ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ ᴠᴇssᴇʟs ᴀɴᴅ sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴇɪʀ sʜᴀʀᴇᴅ ᴅᴜʀᴀ, ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏᴠᴇʀɪɴɢ ᴏF ᴛʜᴇ ʙʀᴀɪɴ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʟɪᴇs ᴜɴᴅᴇʀ ᴛʜᴇ sᴋᴜʟʟ. Tʜᴇʏ Fᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ɢɪʀʟs ᴅɪᴅ sʜᴀʀᴇ ᴀ sᴍᴀʟʟ ᴀᴍᴏᴜɴᴛ ᴏF ʙʀᴀɪɴ ᴛɪssᴜᴇ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇʏ sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛᴇᴅ ᴛʜɪs ᴀs ᴡᴇʟʟ..
More than halfway through the sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ, the teams Fʟɪᴘᴘᴇᴅ the girls, and the sᴜʀɢᴇᴏɴs began the same ᴘᴀɪɴsᴛᴀᴋɪɴɢ process from the other side. As expected, sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ of the sᴀɢɪᴛᴛᴀʟ sɪɴᴜs, the lager ᴠᴇssᴇʟ that ᴄᴀʀʀɪᴇs ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ from the ʙʀᴀɪɴ to the ʜᴇᴀʀᴛ, was the most difficult part of the sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ. After a few very tense hours, with the whole team working ro keep the girls ᴀʟɪᴠᴇ ᴅᴇsᴘɪᴛᴇ sɪɢɴɪFɪᴄᴀɴᴛ ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ ʟᴏss, the girls were finally sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛᴇᴅ. After the sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ, the sᴜʀɢɪᴄᴀʟ team divided into two, one for each of the girls. The teams used ᴀʀᴛɪFɪᴄɪᴀʟ material to replace ᴍɪssɪɴɢ dura, and the sᴛʀeᴛᴄʜeᴅ sᴋɪɴ created by the expanders was sewn to cover the gap. The hardest work was done, but there were many ups and downs in the weeks after the sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ, as the girls slowly recovered.
As soon as their conditions permitted it, Erin and Abby began ɪɴᴛeɴsɪᴠe ᴘʜʏsɪᴄᴀʟ and occupational therapy at CHOP. On July 24, they celebrated their first birthday, receiving more than 300 cards from people around the world.ư
And on Nov. 20, 2017, after 485 days in the Hospital, Erin and Abby were discharged to return home to North Carolina — just in time for Thanksgiving. “The girls are inspiring,” Heather says. “It’s very neat for me to be their mom and to be able to have a front row seat to this and watch them overcome these incredible obstacles. We cannot wait to see what their future holds!”