Waiting for a new life to come into the world can be an exciting time. Hoping for a healthy baby is all a new parent can do until they have their child in their arms. But when things go wrong, the excitement quickly turns to devastation.
Jill Richards and her husband Michael were excited to become parents. As they stood in the hospital and watched the ultrasound screen, they realized that something was wrong.
The doctors soon discovered that the Richards family was about to be blessed with two babies. Identical twins could be seen in the ultrasound. But there was something more, something that would change their lives forever and take them down a difficult path.
Doctors saw that the twins were conjoined. The two tiny girls were attached at the chest wall and shared parts of their diaphragm, liver, and heart lining.
The doctors and staff at the Texas Children’s Hospital had to get prepared for the fight of their lives.
First the battle to bring the twins into the world safely, and then the struggle to figure out the best future plan for them.
The girls were born by C-section but their condition meant that they could not leave the hospital. Jill and Micheal began to pray while the doctors worked on a plan to give each sweet girl her chance for a separate life.
The surgery would be risky. “Through simulations and countless planning meetings, we were able to prepare for situations that could arise during the separation,” Dr. Larry Hollier said.
For 13 long months, while the doctors planned, Anna and Hope remained joined together. The first step would be to implant tissue expanders so that there would be enough tissue on each girl’s chest to cover their organs.
And then the day came. A team of 75 surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, and nurses were ready to begin the process of disconnecting the heart so that the girls could be separated.
No one knew what the outcome would be, but Jill and Michael continued to pray and hope.
After seven grueling hours, the surgery was complete. It was a huge success!
“We’ve thought about and prayed for this day for almost two years,” said Jill. “It’s an indescribable feeling to look at our girls in two separate beds.” They are forever grateful.
The doctors and staff celebrated as well, knowing that it took an entire team working together to save these precious lives.
“When they are conjoined twins, you can really share the family’s joy and excitement,” said one doctor.
Now the Richards are focusing on making sure that Anna and Hope continue to thrive. They wait for the day when their little girls will be home.
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