Two Boys, One Heart: Rare Conjoined Twins Born

For Michael and Robin Hamby, the recent birth of their twin boys has meant twice the joy, but it also means twice the fear. Their sons, born on Thursday, are a rare form of conjoined twins, called dicephalic parapagus. The boys, named Asa and Eli, were born with one torso, one set of legs and arms, and one shared heart. The boys weighed in at 9 pounds, 10.4 ounces, and are 17 inches long. They are currently undergoing cardiology testing of their shared heart, and although they did have to be intubated, the Facebook page the family maintains for the conjoined twins reports that they are now breathing on their own. Although there are some abnormalities with the boys’ shared heart, the cardiology team does not see anything life-threatening.

Although there is a great deal of testing to do, doctors assume each boy will have control over one leg and one arm, meaning they will have a life of learning how to cooperate together. Fortunately, within their shared torso, they each have a spine, meaning they will likely have much greater stability.

Michael and Robin Hamby knew their twin boys were conjoined when Robin was merely eight weeks pregnant.

The couple, who struggled with fertility issues and waited seven years before becoming pregnant with their daughter, weren’t even trying to conceive when Robin felt a familiar nausea that prompted her to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. And since she had no clue how far along she may be, she was given an ultrasound at her first doctor’s appointment.

As a nurse, Robin was able to discern quickly that there were two babies showing on the screen, but her training also meant that she could see right away that something wasn’t quite right, and so she questioned the ultrasound technician.

The technician told her, “I don’t want to scare you, and I don’t want to alarm you, but they’re conjoined.”

Robin began to cry.

“I was fearful for them,” she recalled. “Being a nurse, I knew the statistics and the odds. I knew even if I got perfectly healthy babies, there could be surgeries in their future. As a mom, you don’t want them to start off having pain.”

Robin was correct in being concerned about the statistics when it comes to conjoined twins. According to the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, conjoined twins occur one in every 50,000 to 60,000 births, and most are stillborn. Further statistics show that 35 percent of conjoined twins survive only one day, and that the overall survival rate for conjoined twins is between 5 and 25 percent.

Asked if the couple wanted to terminate, Robin and Michael decided to rely on their faith and what they believe is right, and chose to carry on with the pregnancy.

Robin summed up the couple’s decision.

“We’ve talked about all the possibilities. I’m not going to be in denial. God can choose to take any one of us any day at any time, but we’re going to have faith that he’s given us these babies as a blessing. The chance that they’ve made it this far is amazing. So we’re already beating the odds.”

For more on conjoined twins and the difficulties they face, click here.

[Image via Ledger-Enquirer]