The big day
County, North Carolina, where they lived until their deaths at the age of 63.
For Angela, the massive emotional shock was compounded by the sense that perhaps she was to blame. “I thought, ‘what have I done to deserve this? Was it something I ate? Was it something I drank?’ I knew it wasn’t my fault but it didn’t stop those thoughts.”
Professor Nicolaides could tell the babies were joined at the abdomen, but he couldn’t determine which organs in the pelvis they might share. He also intimated that the babies might not survive the pregnancy.
“‘How will we handle this sort of thing?’ That was running through my mind,” says Daniel. “But at the same time we had just bought a new house, so I was concentrating on moving us. I was trying to comfort Angela and look for the positives.”
Two weeks after the diagnosis, the pair discovered the sex of the babies: Angela was carrying two girls. “At this point people were saying, ‘Are you sure you want to go ahead with it?’ But we were 100 per cent sure,” says Daniel. “We just wouldn’t want to terminate a pregnancy. We both felt that we wanted see what the outcome would be rather than having to intervene and put that on ourselves.”
Angela was booked in for a caesarian section at University College Hospital (UCH) on the 34th week of the pregnancy and was told that once the babies were born they would be transferred to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, which specialises in the management and separation of conjoined twins.
Although apprehensive about the birth, Angela never doubted her love for the twins. “I thought they might come out and be severely disabled, but I also knew they might not be. Whatever happened I would cross that bridge when I came to it. They were my babies and I had a bond with them.”
Meanwhile, Daniel was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on his job. “I was taking people to the wrong bridge or house. People were getting shirty with me because they thought I was trying to do them out of money. I thought, ‘If you only knew’.’’ The day of the birth, three dedicated teams of doctors and nurses were on hand, one for Angela and one for each of the babies.
Throughout the operation Daniel sat with Angela, stroking her hair, trying to keep her calm. They both had no idea what would happen after the birth. “The doctors couldn’t make any plans until the babies were out, as only then would they know exactly where the join was,” says Daniel.
At 9.11am Angela heard a guttural cry and then a minute later she heard an indignant wail. Rosie was born first and Ruby next.
A nurse took the babies away to be cleaned before bringing them back to Angela for a cuddle. “I saw two perfect little girls wrapped in a blanket. I knew they had a join at the tummy, but I also knew they had their arms, legs, fingers and toes,” she says.
Daniel’s initial feeling was one of exhilaration. But reality soon hit. “To look at them, well, they looked beautiful, like there was nothing wrong with them. But then they were whisked away and I thought, ‘Where are we going to go from here – what’s next?’’’
What came next was the discovery by a paediatrician that the babies had a blockage in their shared intestine. They needed to go to Great Ormond Street straight away.
There they would undergo ultrasounds and an x-ray called a contrast enema, which involves the injection of a liquid dye to show the structure of the large intestine.
Daniel kissed Angela goodbye and travelled in an ambulance with the babies, who were being kept warm in incubators. He was told that they would need to be operated on the following day. He called Angela to let her know.
“It was the worst night of my life,” says Angela. “They put me in a room with three other mums who had their babies with them. I could hear the mums moaning – ‘The baby’s crying, nurse, what can I do?’ ‘She’s not breastfeeding, what should I do?’ I held it together, but I was just getting annoyed. I wanted to tell them they had nothing to moan about.”
The following day, Daniel met Angela at UCH and took her in a taxi to Great Ormond Street, where the Formosas met with their medical team and their permission was sought for the operation.
“We signed the consent forms, which I found really hard to do,” says Daniel. “Effectively, I was giving somebody permission to cut my children up. I didn’t know the operation would save their lives.”
Professor Agostino Pierro, 59, is the paediatric surgeon who led the team that operated on Ruby and Rosie. “Normally we wait two to three months and then plan the