Eight-month old twins Amelia L. and Allison J. Tucker are no longer conjoined.
After a successful, seven-hour separation surgery was completed at 3:40 p.m. Wednesday at the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, Pa., the girls will now get to catch up on their individual developmental milestones.
Like all separations of conjoined twins, this was a very complex surgery, but it went very well and as expected, lead surgeon Dr. Holly L. Hedrick said in a news release after the surgery Wednesday. Allison and Amelia are currently recovering in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU) and will be monitored closely by CHOPs expert clinical teams for the duration of their recovery.
In an interview with the Times before the surgery, the girls mother, Shellie Tucker, said while both girls have fiery personalities and laugh and coo, they will be able to work on sitting up on their own, and learning to crawl, among other milestones, after surgery. Mrs. Tucker is a 2006 graduate of Belleville Henderson Central School. She and her husband reside in Adams, although they have spent most of the last eight months at the hospital and a nearby Ronald McDonald House in Camden, N.J.
According to the Mayo Clinic, conjoined twins develop when a single fertilized egg only partially splits.
This was the 21st successful conjoined-twin separation surgery the hospital has performed. The surgery involved a team of about 40 medical professionals, which included physicians, nurses and other medical staff from general surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, cardiac surgery, anesthesiology, radiology, and neonatology.
According to a hospital news release, conjoined twins occur once every 50,000 to 60,000 births, and most are stillborn. Most conjoined twins share several organs, but the Tucker twins were joined at the lower chest and abdomen, and only shared their chest wall, diaphragm, pericardium and liver.
We expect that after surgery, recovery and therapy, the girls will be able to live, full, healthy and independent lives, Dr. Hedrick said in a news release prior to the surgery.
Dr. Hedrick is the Childrens Hospitals co-director of the neonatal surgery team.
Amelia and Allison were born March 1 at 35 weeks gestation, and since then had gone through multiple tests and procedures and were cared for by a medical team upwards of 100 people to make sure they were best prepared for the lengthy procedure Wednesday. The girls spent seven weeks after birth in the neonatal intensive care unit before being transferred to a surgical-step down unit.
Mrs. Tucker has been logging the girls and her familys journey through CaringBridge, a nonprofit organization that provides free websites that connect people experiencing a significant health challenge to family and friends, making the journey easier. She updated her page Tuesday, 15 hours before the surgery, and said she and her husband were going to hold our breath and hope and pray God listens to our thousands of supporters.
St. Cecillias Catholic Church, Grove Street, Adams, held a prayer vigil for the family Wednesday. Mrs. Tuckers mother and father, Vicky and Larry Ambeau, are members of the church.
When reached by telephone late Wednesday night, hospital spokeswoman Ashley Moore said the family and medical team wouldnt make any formal statements, aside from information included a news release, until days or weeks after the separation. In the news release, however, Mrs. Tucker said the whole experience with her girls thus far has been an incredible journey and she and her family are excited about the next phase in Allisons and Amelias lives.
While Ms. Moore wouldnt comment on the recovery process, the hospitals statement in its news release included that the infants will be closely followed in the coming months by nutritionists, developmental pediatricians, and other specialists to ensure that they receive the best clinical care to enable them to thrive and grow.
We expect that, with this complex surgery behind them, Allison and Amelia will receive the care, therapy and support to allow them to live full, healthy and independent lives, Dr. Hedrick said in the release.
The hospital did not issue any photos of the girls post surgery.
To continue to follow the Tucker Twins journey, visit their CaringBridge page at www.caringbridge.org/visit/thetuckertwins.