Conjoined Twin Girls Successfully Separated in ‘Amazing’ 17-Hour Surgery

Conjoined twins Erika and Eva Sandoval were successfully separated at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, California, this week.

The 2-year-old sisters, who were born facing each other and sharing much of their lower body, underwent a 17-hour surgery that began Tuesday, December 6, and stretched into Wednesday, according to the hospital’s website. They are now in stable condition and will spend about a month at the medical center recovering.

Conjoined twins Erika Sandoval Eva Sandoval Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford
Conjoined twins Erika and Eva Sandoval. Courtesy Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford/Twitter

Dr. Gary Hartman, who led the surgery team of about 50 people, has now separated seven pairs of conjoined twins. He said that the medical team and the twins’ parents, Aida and Arturo Sandoval, had “the same goal we have for all of our children: that we end up with two happy, healthy girls,” according to The Sacramento Bee. “Anyone who saw the girls before surgery can testify to the happy part. We think that this week we made a big step toward the healthy part. The girls are recovering quite well."

While each twin had separate hearts, lungs and stomachs, they shared a liver, bladder, two kidneys and three legs, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital site says. Postsurgery, they each have one kidney and one leg, and they are both missing about one-third of the abdomen. Their third leg was used for reconstruction, and while they considered giving it to Erika, it likely would not have been useful for walking because of its abnormal structure.

Conjoined twins Erika Sandoval Eva Sandoval Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford
The surgical team working on conjoined twins Erika and Eva Sandoval. Courtesy Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford/Twitter

“They learned to walk together,” Hartman said, according to The Bee. “We don’t know what they’ll be able to do separately.”

The need for the surgery, which carried a 30 percent risk that one or both twins would die, became more urgent because Erika was growing weaker while Eva was getting stronger. “[Erika] was basically getting smaller,” Hartman said. “The more calories we gave her, the bigger Eva got. … We know that if one twin is critically ill and passes away, the other will die within a few hours. So we certainly didn’t want to get into that situation.” Although doctors were more worried about Erika, she’s actually recovering more quickly than Eva.

Their mother, Aida Sandoval, said in a statement on the hospital’s website, “It’s amazing how strong these girls are and it’s amazing what their team performed. Seeing them now in the ICU, you look at them and think, ‘You’re missing your other half,’ but we know that this is the right path for them: to be independent, have the chance to succeed and explore on their own everything the world has to offer.” 

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