Conjoined twin dies at four weeks old, on Christmas Day

Faith Williams finally succumbs to 'complexities of her situation'
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The Independent Online

Faith Williams, the conjoined twin who survived separation from her twin sister, Hope, at Great Ormond Street Hospital, has died.

Faith survived three major operations during her four-week life but finally died on the afternoon of Christmas Day. Doctors said that she had a 50-50 chance of surviving the most recent operation, during which the twins' parents, Aled and Laura Williams, kept a constant vigil.

Doctors hoped that they would be able to wait until the twins were older and stronger before operating to separate them, but were forced to intervene as their health deteriorated sharply. A blockage in the intestine shared by the twins threatened to end both their lives before doctors had the chance to save either of them.

The parents had been warned that there was a low chance of either twin surviving. They were born, joined at the chest, on 26 November. Faith, the bigger of the two girls, was joined to her sister from the bottom of the breastbone to the top of the navel. They shared an abdomen, liver and intestine.

"While this is a sad outcome, it is not an unexpected one," said Professor Agostino Pierro, who conducted the operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where the children were staying in a 16-bed intensive care unit.

Faith had surgery to separate her from Hope on 2 December. Hope died shortly after the complicated operation, which took 11 hours and involved 20 staff, because her lungs were too small to support her breathing. The twins were moved to different theatres after their separation.

Since then, Faith has had two more operations – one to help boost her circulation, the other to close her chest. "The aim was to ensure more blood flows to her body and less through her lungs," Professor Pierro said, before adding that Faith had "succumbed to the complexities of her condition".

Professor Pierro was accompanied during the operations by Edward Kiely, the most experienced surgeon of his kind in the country, who has been involved in treating 16 sets of conjoined twins.

The babies' parents thanked staff at the hospital for their support. Mrs Williams, 18, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, became the youngest recorded mother of conjoined twins when the babies were delivered by Caesarean section after 35 weeks' gestation. Staff at University College Hospital in London, where they were born, measured their combined weight at 10lb 8oz.

Previous experience of similar operations at Great Ormond Street suggests that, when the operation to separate is conducted as an emergency, as in this case, three out of four babies die. When doctors can allow the twins to develop greater strength outside the womb, survival rates improve dramatically, with eight out of 10 leaving hospital alive.