Two formerly conjoined toddlers have recovered from separation surgery and are leaving a Richmond, Virginia hospital in the hopes of soon returning home to the Dominican Republic.
On Friday, Maria and Teresa Tapia were released from Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University. The 20-month-old girls had been joined at the chest and underwent complicated surgery that lasted nearly all day on Nov. 7. The surgical team divided the twins’ liver, pancreas and other shared organ systems and reconstructed their abdominal walls in a series of surgeries.
The girls will remain in Richmond for follow-up medical visits and to undergo outpatient therapy to continue to work on motor skills like walking as they become accustomed to being separated. They expect to go home by Christmas.
Their mother, Lisandra Sanatis, said, “They are enjoying life now that they’re separated…They enjoy seeing themselves as individuals.”
The girls still stay near each other and hold hands when they walk, but they are getting accustomed to exploring their surroundings separately.
Having been in Richmond for several months now, Sanatis says she and her daughters are ready to leave the hospital and are looking forward to returning to their family in their native country.
They are apparently missing the rest of their family and haven’t acquired a taste for American fare (including hospital meals)– preferring instead to get Dominican food like traditional beans and rice for takeout.
Among the well-wishers offering their support was Rocio Castanos, a friend of the Dominican first lady, who stopped in Thursday for a visit during the twins’ last full day in the hospital. Castanos (who lives in Richmond) brought a stuffed animal for each girl and offered to cook them a traditional Dominican soup called sancocho.
The 20-month-old girls have been recovering well according to Dr. David Lanning, a surgeon and head of the medical team that is caring for them.
The smaller of the two girls, Maria, weighs about 19 pounds and her sister Teresa weighs about 26 pounds. Lanning says the disparity in their weight is caused by the configuration of their small intestines and blood flow from the liver and he expects it to gradually even out.
Maria’s is taking replacement enzymes for her pancreas, which is slow to produce digestive enzymes. Teresa is undergoing treatment for the incision where the girls were once joined.
The toddlers will remain in Richmond while they relearn walking and otherwise reorient their movements now that they’re no longer attached, all part of outpatient therapy.