The road to re­cov­ery

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

op­er­a­tion, but in this case we had to carry out the pro­ce­dure as an emer­gency be­cause there was an ob­struc­tion,” he says. “The in­tes­tine was joined and we didn’t know why it wasn’t work­ing.”

In the hours be­fore the op­er­a­tion, Agostino vi­su­alised how it would go. “I think pre­par­ing your­self is the most im­por­tant thing – pre­par­ing your­self not just phys­i­cally but men­tally,” he says. “I usu­ally re­lax and make a men­tal plan. I think things through. I think about pos­si­ble com­pli­ca­tions and how I could cor­rect them. This is the most im­por­tant thing when sep­a­rat­ing con­joined twins – the men­tal plan.” On av­er­age, he op­er­ates on one set of con­joined twins a year.

The day af­ter their birth, the ba­bies were laid side-on and Agostino cut across their ab­domens at the point where they were joined. “When you sep­a­rate con­joined twins there is al­ways an un­cer­tainty about what you’re go­ing to find and in this case, not ev­ery­thing was shown in the scan. The anatomy was very dis­or­gan­ised.”

Once he’d looked in­side he found that the ba­bies were shar­ing the lower in­tes­tine. Ruby had her up­per in­tes­tine only, whereas Rosie had both the up­per and lower in­tes­tine. They were also linked by the bowel and a lit­tle bit of the blad­der.

He made a judge­ment over who would get what, then he started cut­ting and di­vid­ing tis­sue un­til they were sep­a­rated. Af­ter­wards one baby stayed put and the other was taken to an­other the­atre. Then the ba­bies were stitched up. The op­er­a­tion, which took about five hours and in­volved a med­i­cal team of 15, went smoothly.

The For­mosas were hugely re­lieved to be reunited with the girls. “They were in an in­cu­ba­tor so we couldn’t touch them or pick them up,” says Daniel. “It was nice to see that the op­er­a­tion was a suc­cess and they were sep­a­rated, but it wasn’t nice to see all the tubes com­ing out of them.” Af­ter the op­er­a­tion the ba­bies were put on a mor­phine drip and on a res­pi­ra­tor. A catheter was in­serted into their blad­ders and an in­tra­venous line gave them flu­ids. They spent five days in the in­ten­sive-care unit and then were moved to a ward where they re­mained for just over two weeks.

Angela re­calls her trep­i­da­tion in those first few days. “They were tiny, lit­tle ba­bies, they didn’t cry much at all. I was too scared to touch them.”

But the girls re­cov­ered well and, three weeks af­ter the op­er­a­tion, they were ready to go home. Daniel was fran­ti­cally work­ing on their new house and get­ting the twins’ bed­room ready. He ar­rived at the hos­pi­tal in his taxi with Lily in tow. “I was fright­ened to go over a bump be­cause I had these frag­ile goods on board,” he says.

It was daunt­ing for Angela to be away from the se­cure bub­ble of the hos­pi­tal, and she could see that their new house still needed a lot of work. “I was re­ally happy to have them home, but I was a bit scared too,” she says. “The state of the house was quite de­press­ing.”

One year on, the girls are thriv­ing and their dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties are shin­ing through. In a few months they will need to un­dergo more surgery, but the For­mosas aren’t wor­ry­ing about that for now, they’re just fo­cus­ing on how much joy the girls have brought them.

“I still can’t quite be­lieve how far they’ve come,” says Angela. “I didn’t think I’d ever get them. I never thought I’d hold them in my arms.”

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