It took an incredible 23 operations leading up to the momentous 11-hour separation surgery for these twin girls, born conjoined at the head. They then spent five more months recovering in the hospital, and now these feisty twins are learning to take their first steps.
Conjoined at the skull, Abby and Erin Delaney were born with a rare condition that affects one out of around 70,000 in the United States. They were successfully separated on June 6, 2017, at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
The sisters from Mooresville, North Carolina, were born 10 weeks premature on July 24, 2016, at the CHOP Garbose Family Service Delivery Unit, and they lived their first year inside the hospital walls.
The family waited while a team of doctors planned and executed a series of surgeries that culminated in the twins’ separation many months later.
According to the hospital’s press release, around 30 individuals had helped carry out the complex 11-hour surgery.
“The ability to plan and carry out this type of surgery is testament to the skill and expertise available here at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” said N. Scott Adzick MD, CHOP’s surgeon-in-chief.
“I’m extremely proud of Dr. Heuer, Dr. Taylor and the entire CHOP team, and I’m thrilled that Erin and Abby have a promising future because their courageous parents entrusted their daughters to our care.”
Reconstructive surgeon Dr. Jesse Taylor said that this was one of the earliest craniopagus (twins conjoined at the head) separation surgeries ever recorded.
“We know that children heal better and faster the younger they are, therefore our goal for Erin and Abby was separation as soon as possible with minimum number of surgeries,” he said in a press release.
Hey everyone be sure to wish Heather(mom) a happy birthday!!! -Riley(dad)
“Although this has been a long journey, with many ups and downs, Riley and I are thrilled to see how well the girls are doing today,” Heather Delaney, the twins’ mother, said in a statement.
“We are so grateful for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia team, and for the support and encouragement that our families, our friends and the community have given us during this long journey.”
Erin and Abby have since been discharged from the hospital, and the twins celebrated their second birthday in July 2018.
Though the twins are back home, the girls will still require many more operations down the road to introduce bone to shore up their skulls and straighten their hairlines. The twins still have to attend many followup doctor appointments and sessions for feeding and speech therapy.
Heather wrote on the family’s blog post dated Nov. 12, 2018, that everything “went so well” during many of these appointments so far.
Thanking her well-wishers, she wrote: “Thank you so much for all of your prayers and well wishes! They are definitely felt. We are so excited for the holidays coming up and all the fun that comes along with them! We pray that you and your families have wonderful holidays as well!!!”
“We had no expectations,” Heather told Good Morning America. “The fact they are doing as well as they are is amazing to us. It’s really cool to watch them grow and change and turn into these little people.”
Erin has been able to crawl and Abby rolls up and sits.
On a post shared in late April, Heather wrote: “Erin has started to pull herself up to stand!!! We can’t believe it! These girls destroying the odds that are against them they are such miracles!”
The family’s goal is to let more people know about these medical issues and spread hope among them.
“Our girls are the example of impossible being possible,” Heather added. “I call them our miracle babies.”
This is wonderful news. We hope the twins continue to do well and grow up healthy.