After 13 months joined at the head, conjoined twins Jadon and Anias McDonald were separated on Friday morning after a grueling 22-hour procedure at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Parents Nicole and Christian McDonald were up against an impossible decision when it came to the separation of their sons, ultimately opting for the high-risk procedure. Doctors warned the parents that one or both boys could face long-term brain damage or death. Both boys survived the separation procedure, but the road to recovery will remain unclear for a while longer.
The twins' mother, Nicole, shared her story post-operation on Facebook. "It's a bit surreal to sit here and type this," Nicole wrote. "I should feel so happy...TWO SEPARATE BABIES!!!...and yet I ache with the uncertainty of the future. ... We are definitely not out of the woods by any means."
Surgery officially began at 10 a.m. on Thursday, and Jadon was wheeled out of the operating room at 7:40 a.m. on Friday. As of 11 a.m. on Friday, 24 hours after the operation began, Anias remained in the operating room. Even before the surgery, Anias had breathing, feeding, and vision issues. Nicole wrote on Facebook:
They had to reopen Anias' incision. He's still in surgery. No idea how much longer it will be. My heart aches for him all alone down there without his brother. Such a scary time to be alone.
In less than an hour, more than 1,000 comments of support poured in on her Facebook post.
According to CNN, only one in every 200,000 live births are conjoined twins. This makes the procedure to separate them — already a dangerous maneuver — one that is also rare. Since 1952, there have only been 59 separations of conjoined twins, and those often resulted in the death of one or both babies. While Jadon and Anias survived, it will be a while before the coast is clear for them and their parents. Nicole wrote on Facebook:
They are predicting that at first [Anias] may not be able to move one or both sides of his body, based on the area of brain that was dissected. Because he had to re-route so much vasculature, so quickly, they will be on the look out for brain swelling and stroke. If there was ever a time that we needed prayers in this entire voyage...this would be the time. ... We just took a huge leap of faith, but now we are back to taking baby steps.
For those who would like to send more than prayers, the McDonalds set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the medical costs of separating the twins. More than $165,000 has been raised over the span of a year, but medical expenses will likely continue as the boys recover, so any help is appreciated.
"Until they are separated, my boys will never sit up. I won't be able to put them up on my shoulder and hold them," Nicole wrote before the surgery. "They will struggle with eating. I can't just swoop them up and snuggle them. All the things you take for granted with a typical baby, I yearn for."
They twins are now separated — and with luck, Jadon and Anias will soon be able to sit up, eat normally, and snuggle their parents.