Formerly conjoined Utah twins Kendra and Maliyah Herrin are hitting major recovery milestones following their separation surgery a month ago.
The 4-year-old girls captured the country's attention when they were separated Aug. 8 in a rare 26-hour operation in Salt Lake City.
The operation was believed to be the first time surgeons separated conjoined twins with a shared kidney.
Kendra and Maliyah were born in a perpetual hug, their bodies fused at the midsection, and they shared a liver, a kidney, a pelvis, one set of legs, and part of their intestines.
Surgeons at Primary Children's Medical Center gave each girl one leg, split their liver and intestines, and reconstructed their bladders and their pelvic rings.
Kendra kept their one functioning kidney, while Maliyah was put on dialysis.
She will receive one of her mother's kidneys.
Kendra and Maliyah have begun their long road to recovery, with their parents, Jake and Erin Herrin, by their side.
"Kendra opened her eyes and was like, 'Mommy, I'm still here,'" Erin said. "And then I went over to Maliyah, and she squeezed my finger to show me that they were OK."
On Aug. 12, just four days after the surgery, the twins came off the ventilators and began to stir.
"Everyone was excited," said Dr. Rebecka Meyers. "There was just this feeling in the hospital of, the girls are off the ventilator. Yay!"
Family Still Worries
That the twins came through the surgery did little to ease the stress of the situation.
"I don't think it could have gone any better than it has, but … it doesn't make it any, any less emotional and hard and stressful going through all this," Jake said.
Maliyah's dialysis catheter malfunctioned nine days after surgery, sending her back to the operating room.
A few days later, she had more surgery to clean out an infection in a wound.
"They're all things that we expected were possible and are treating," Meyers said.
Day by day, the girls, still groggy, made slow but steady progress.
Their beds are just a few feet apart, but the girls miss each other, waving at one another often.
Three weeks after their surgery, the girls made another huge step: They left intensive care.
Both are noticeably quiet, adjusting to their new lives and perhaps missing their old one.
But ultimately they were put together in the same bed.
"Once, you know, [we] just put them in the same bed. Their outlook just changed," Dr. Fazi Siddiqqi said. "They were holding hands. It was just great."