When new parents Heather and Riley Delaney from Mooresville, North Carolina learned they were expecting twins, they were ecstatic.
But the knowledge was also bittersweet, as the couple also learned that their babies were actually conjoined twins who would need to go through a series of operations right after birth to prepare for their separation.
The twins, Erin and Abby, were born ten weeks early in July of 2016 via cesarean section. At birth, the twins each only weighed about two ounces. The doctors made plans to separate the twins early on, as it is believed that the younger the child, the easier it is for them to survive and heal because their young bodies are more ready to adapt.
So, when the girls were only 11 months old, they were taken in for surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to be separated. On a personal blog post, the twins’ mother, Heather, shared that they weren’t actually fully prepared for the twins to be separated.
The first bit of the surgery was pointed at separating the veins and blood vessels. And, because that went well, doctors recommended continuing to fully separate the twins.
Heather explained, “In that moment we were flooded with emotions. This went from a fairly straight forward surgery to a very complicated one in a matter of minutes. This was no longer something that I was fully prepared for.”
On top of that, Heather and Riley were given some very crucial news. The doctors were going to separate Erin and Abby from behind the point where the saggital sinuses were connected. That meant that Erin was going to get all while Abby would be left with very little, giving her a much greater risk of infection and death.
“When you are told that sort of information your world stops,” Heather writes. She was devastated because the girls were back in the operating room and she wouldn’t be able to give an extra kiss or pep talk to Abby.
Fortunately, Abby held strong. The surgery was long and risky but both of the girls made it through. The neurosurgeon told Heather and Riley that there were a few times he almost lost Abby because she started losing too much blood. But the little girl held on.
After 16 hours in the operating room, Erin and Abby were wheeled into the pediatric intensive care unit and back to their parents. However, it wasn’t all happiness and tears of joy. The girls were in very precarious positions.
Erin had had less complications during the surgery, but now that she was in the PICU, her team was struggling to stabilize her breathing. Abby’s team was also working hard to keep the little girl alive. Her mother explains, “She was here, her heart was beating, she was fighting, and she wasn’t giving up. I didn’t hear a word that was said. All I knew was Abby was here.”
After the surgery, the girls went through many ups and down, including infections and near-death scares. But they stayed strong. In October 2017, Erin was discharged and allowed to go home to move in to the neighboring Ronald McDonald House with her mother.
One month later, Abby was discharged too. She had spent 485 days in the hospital and now she was finally free to go home. Heather writes, “Walking out those doors and putting the girls into the car was one of the most surreal and happy moments of my life.”
The family is now adjusting to life outside of the hospital with their little warrior children. Erin and Abby are ready to grow up as individuals. Their mother shares, “We are beyond blessed to have come out the other side of the journey and still have both of our children.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Erin and Abby’s story.
All screenshots taken from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia / YouTube unless otherwise stated.