The big day

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

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

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