PHILADELPHIA (WJW) — Twin girls who were born conjoined are finally home after nearly one year in intensive care and a 10-hour separation surgery.
According to a press release from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Addison and Lilianna Altobelli, now 14 months old, were born connected at the abdomen and chest and shared a liver, diaphragm, chest and abdominal wall.
When their parents, Maggie and Dom, of Chicago, found out they were pregnant, they assumed they were having one baby. Ultrasound images revealed Maggie was carrying two babies and that they were attached at the abdomen. According to CHOP, conjoined twins occur in only about one in 50,000 births.
CHOP is one of only a few hospitals in the country experienced with separating conjoined twins. More than 28 pairs of conjoined twins have been separated there since 1957.
Doctors determined before Addison and Lilianna were born that they had separate, healthy hearts, and the liver they shared was large enough to divide between them. So, they were “excellent candidates” for separation surgery.
The babies were born via C-section on Nov. 18, 2020. They spent four months in the NICU and six months in PICU.
Doctors inserted skin expanders, which are like small, collapsible balloons, to gradually expand through injections to stretch the skin. When the twins were stable and there was enough skin to cover their chest walls and abdomen after separation, it was time for the surgery.
“Separating conjoined twins is always a challenge because every single set of twins is unique, and they all have different challenges and anatomic considerations,” said lead surgeon Dr. Holly L. Hedrick. “The way our team works together, it’s really incredible and special, with so many people coming together to work toward a common goal.”
They underwent their 10-hour surgery on Oct. 13.
“To see them with their own bodies – their bodies were just so perfect – it was amazing,” Maggie said in the release. “It was just indescribable.”
Hedrick said both Addy and Lily are doing well, and their hope is that “they have full lives that are joyful.”
The family was finally able to fly home to Chicago on Dec. 1. The twins spent two weeks in a local hospital and were discharged in time for Christmas.
Both girls have tracheostomy tubes and ventilators to help with their breathing while they adjust.
“We’re starting a new book,” Dom said in the release. “It’s not even a new chapter. It’s a new book. We started a brand new book for the girls, and there’s an Addy book, and there’s a Lily book.”