Jadon and Anias McDonald, 13-month-old conjoined twins from Illinois, were separated following a marathon 27-hour-long surgery on Friday, CNN reports. The rare surgery performed at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx was conducted by a team of doctors led by Dr. James Goodrich, who later confirmed to media outlets that the procedure to separate the conjoined twins was successfully completed.
The news was also confirmed by Nicole McDonald, the mother of the twins who posted the news on a Facebook post. Nicole was continuously posting updates pertaining to the complex and risky surgery through her Facebook posts.
In one of the posts that was sent out just minutes after the surgery was completed, Nicole wrote, “Dr Goodrich and his team just left. He walked in the room and plopped in the arm chair by the door. After 16 straight hours of surgery, he still had his sense of humor. ‘Well, we did it,’ he said.”
She also revealed that at one point, the doctors had almost thought of stopping the procedure because it was turning out to be too risky.
“There was a point where Dr Goodrich debated stopping the whole procedure because it was just too risky but an opening presented itself and they went for it and it ended up being the right call. The boys ended up sharing a 5 x 7 cm area of brain tissue with no definite plane for dissection…so Dr Goodrich had to make the call and the final cut based on his instinct.”
The palpable excitement in Nicole’s words became evident when she wrote the following.
“It’s a bit surreal to sit here and type this…I should feel so happy…TWO SEPARATE BABIES!!!…and yet I ache with the uncertainty of the future. I didn’t cry until the surgeon’s left the room. I was barely able to even utter the words ‘thank you’ because of the pit that still sits heavy in my stomach. We are standing on the brink of a vast unknown.”
It was in May of 2015 that Nicole and her husband, Christian McDonald, found out that they were expecting twins. The exciting news was announced by her technician right after her first ultrasound. A few hours after the couple went home excited about having twin siblings for their elder son, Aza, they received a call from the same technician asking them to come back immediately. She drove back to the center where the technician told her the news.
“You know, Mrs. McDonald, I don’t know what to tell you, but your twins are conjoined. From what it appears, they share a head. We don’t know how much.”
While Nicole had heard of conjoined twins, the thought that she would be giving birth to them never crossed her mind. Also, conjoined twins are extremely rare, and babies conjoined at the head are even rarer. They occur only once in about 2.5 million births. The radiologist also had other grim news for Nicole. Only 20 percent of cranially joined twins have been known to live past their second birthdays if they are not separated. Since they are joined at the head, any surgery to separate them becomes inherently risky and complex. Add to it the risk that even if the twins survive, they would remain bedridden for their entire lives due to potential brain damage caused by the surgery.
After learning about the inherent risks, the couple went ahead with the pregnancy, and the twins were born on September 9, 2015. The babies were, however, quickly whisked away from her and placed under intensive care. In the months preceding the birth of their twins, the couple researched the condition and discovered that Dr. James Goodrich was a world-renowned expert in conducting what’s known as craniopagus surgery – an extremely rare procedure. As Dr. Goodrich would later reveal, the surgery to separate the twins was only the 59th of its kind in the world since 1952.
The family had set up a GoFundMe campaign to help them cover some cost for the expensive procedure and so far, they have received nearly $200,000 in donations. Nicole has thanked everyone who stood by the family for well over a year since the birth of her twins.
Thanking everyone who helped them out, Nicole wrote, “When this all began, back in that dark ultrasound room, I knew we were in for a battle, but I also knew that with God anything is possible, Our faith continues to grow as we watch God work out blessing after blessing in our life. We are eternally grateful for all of you who have donated, sent messages, sent cards, and prayers. Without you, we’d be sunk. Thank you for renewing our faith in the goodness of man.”
[Featured Image by Nicole McDonald/Facebook]