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Conjoined twin girls from Adams scheduled for separation surgery

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Eight-month-old conjoined twins Amelia Lee and Allison June are some of the most talked-about babies at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

They carry the title “best dressed” because they wear fashionable clothes and their mother’s handmade bows, but the girls also are being prepared for the biggest change in their life — separation surgery.

Since their birth March 1 at 35 weeks’ gestation, both girls have gone through multiple tests and procedures to make sure they’re best prepared for the minimum-eight-hour procedure, which may be as early as next week.

“It’s been one of the most incredible journeys,” said Shellie Tucker, the girls’ mother. She and her husband, Greg, live in Adams. “They’re miracles that are here, doing so well and blowing everyone’s mind.”

The girls are connected from their breast to belly, but they share only a portion of their livers. That’s good news for the girls, as many conjoined twins are connected through multiple vital organs. If the surgical team finds any connected glands, the entire procedure will take longer than eight hours, Mrs. Tucker said.

When reached at the girls’ room at the hospital Wednesday, Mrs. Tucker said surgery preparation has included both Amelia and Allison receiving tissue expanders to stretch out their skin where the surgery will take place. This procedure hopefully will make sure the girls have enough skin to close their incisions after surgery, Mrs. Tucker said.

She said her girls are proving their strength and resilience.

“They’ve taken everything like champs,” Mrs. Tucker said. “They get stuck with a needle twice a day and they don’t cry. They giggle, laugh and coo. It’s important to remember when going through struggles to suck it up and deal with it. They’re not fussing at any point in time.”

That’s because they’ve been used to a team of 75 to 100 medical professionals from among the neonatal intensive care unit, where they were for the first seven weeks of life, the nurses on the floor their room is on, and the people involved in tests and procedures. But that doesn’t mean the girls like them.

“We like to take the girls on lots of walks in the hospital, and Allison loves to smile at anyone except anyone dressed as a doctor, in those blue scrubs,” Mrs. Tucker said. “Amelia is very serious, and she is so hard to get to smile except for her daddy, brother and me. It’s funny how different they are.”

Mrs. Tucker said she and her husband, Greg, adore the love Amelia and Allison have for each other. She said they hold each other’s hands and try to comfort each other. They also work together for a little mischievous behavior, she said.

“They’ll pull out each other’s feeding tubes, and they’re constantly grabbing them,” Mrs. Tucker said. “They now work together to take each other’s socks off on their hands to get their hands free.”

The girls still have feeding tubes because they need to eat every three hours. The tissue expanders put pressure on their stomachs, Mrs. Tucker said, and they often don’t feel like eating on their own.

The girls have come a long way since their birth, and now hold their heads up and use one of their favorite play items: an iPad. Hospital staff started giving them baby food at the beginning of October, and while Amelia hated rice cereal, both girls loved squash.

“It’s very hard to feed them because they can’t sit up yet,” Mrs. Tucker said. “It takes quite a few therapists.”

As their individual personalities begin to shine, their big brother, Owen W., 2, stands by to protect them.

“He loves his babies,” Mrs. Tucker said. “He has to stand between them and people. He loves to help out and play peek-a-boo with them by running around their bed.”

More than anything, she said, support has come from the north country, from people throughout the country and from the Children’s Miracle Network of Northern New York at Samaritan Medical Center. The Tucker twins have been featured on the CMN radiothon, which airs on the Border 106.7 and 94.1 the Rock until 6 p.m. Friday. Most important, Mrs. Tucker said, she and her husband have received support through prayer and thoughts from St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church, Adams. The church has set up a volunteer prayer session all day on the day of the separation surgery.

“I don’t know if we’re prepared enough, mentally,” Mrs. Tucker said. “Our biggest thing is we have to go through this open-minded and trust the doctors. It’s completely out of our hands.”

Recovery time depends on how the surgery goes, she said, but when the girls are discharged it’ll be another adventure. The Tuckers recently found an apartment in Watertown that they soon need to move into.

“We’ll have to move into a new place, and set up a new nursery, and that adds another stress,” Mrs. Tucker said. “A lot of people said they’re willing to help and we’ll definitely take them up on their effort. The biggest thing I’m looking forward to, though, is to cook my family dinner. I can’t wait to be home.”

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