Doctors successfully separate conjoined Chicago twins in ‘superhero’ procedure

’Dr. Holly Hedrick is our Wonder Woman and we want her to be funded to help a whole lot more people,’ twins’ father says

Graig Graziosi
Friday 21 January 2022 17:12
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Related video: Conjoined twins separated

Conjoined twins who were joined at the abdomen and chest have been successfully separated after an operation in Philadelphia.

The 10-month-old girls Addy and Lilianna Altobelli underwent the procedure at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia after spending nearly a year in intensive care.

The girls have since been taken to their home in Chicago.

Prior to the surgery, the girls shared a liver, diaphragm, chest, and abdominal wall.

More than two dozen medical specialists assisted in the operation, which lasted for approximately 10 hours.

After the girls were separated, the attending medical staff split their forces and worked to rebuild the children’s chest and abdomen.

Dr Holly Hendrick, the lead surgeon, said that no two surgeries to separate conjoined twins are alike, and that each has its own challenges.

“Separating conjoined twins is always a challenge because every single set of twins is unique, and they all have different challenges and anatomic considerations,” she said in a press statement. “The way our team works together, it’s really incredible and special, with so many people coming together to work toward a common goal. Addy and Lily are doing well, and our hope is that they have full lives that are joyful.”

Conjoined twins are rare, only appearing in about 1 in 50,000 births. When the twins were diagnosed prenatally, the Altobellis were recommended to CHOP, as the hospital is one of the few in the country with experience separating conjoined twins.

After the twins were born, they spent their first four months in a newborn ICU followed by six months in a paediatric ICU. Surgeons had to wait for the twins’ health to stabilise and for them to grow enough skin to eventually cover the spots were they joined.

When the twins had reached an acceptable age and could handle the operations, the medical staff decided it was time to separate the girls.

“To see them with their own bodies – their bodies were just so perfect – it was amazing,” Ms Altobelli said. “It was just indescribable.”

Mr Altobelli compared Dr Hendrick to a superhero.

“Dr. Holly Hedrick is our Wonder Woman and we want her to be funded to help a whole lot more people,” he told The Today Show.

After living in Philadelphia for more than a year, the Altobellis and their daughters were finally ready to fly home to Chicago on 1 December, 2021.

Once they reached Chicago, the twins spent another two weeks at the Lurie Children’s Hospital to ensure they were healing and adjusting well post-surgery. The girls were released from the hospital just before Christmas, and returned to their homes to find that their neighbors had decorated their yards to celebrate their journey.

“This is our journey. It’s a very special one in many ways,” Ms Altobelli said. “These girls are going to live long, healthy lives. It’s pretty miraculous and unbelievable that we’re living this life.”

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