Twins who were conjoined at the head have been successfully separated in a surgery that lasted in total over 20 hours. The procedure on the 13 month old boys was performed by James Goodrich, MD, PhD, a leading neurosurgeon with the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.
According to an extensive news report by CNN, the twins, Jadon and Anias McDonald, shared brain tissue amounting to as much as two inches in diameter.
As part of the process, Goodrich employed 3D-printed models of the boys’ brains and extensive imaging tools to provide a roadmap of the separation surgery, allowing him to anticipate particular challenges before he encounters them on the table. While revolutionary, the advance technological prep work could only do so much. The vascular system proved even more complex than the imaging could show.
There were also a series of preliminary procedures leading up to the main event, including placement of tissue expanders meant to provide added skin so the individual twins’ heads can be successfully stitched closed following the separation surgery.
Goodrich told CNN the recovery process for the boys will involve a developmental step backward.
“They go back to a 1-month-old. They have to learn to sit. They have to learn to roll. They have to learn to walk. They basically go through a yearlong period of a second infancy,” he said.
Luckily for the twins, their mother, Nicole McDonald, has a background a pediatric physical therapist. McDonald noted she’d already brought that experience to development sessions with the boys, intended to prepare them for the adjustment of being physically separated from one another.
Throughout the surgical process, McDonald posted regular public updates on her personal Facebook page, which accumulated thousands of comments and other interactions.
That open and honest sharing included a heartrending stretch when Anias remained behind in surgery after Jadon was brought back to the recovery room. McDonald noted that Anias was in surgery almost five hours longer than his brother. That was somewhat expected. There was greater concern about Anias’s ability to pull through the surgery because he’d endured more medical issues previously, including heart problems and seizures.
Eventually, McDonald was able to report that both twins were recovering in the room together, albeit further apart than they’d ever been before.
“This is how I always saw you. I love you so much. Now it’s time to step forward into the new chapter of our life. I’m ready to fight and I know you are too,” she wrote.