Ten-month-old conjoined twin girls from Chile face perhaps the most grueling fight of their young lives as they recover from separation surgery that doctors successfully completed early Wednesday, all while the entire nation watched on TV and the Internet.
Doctors separated the girls at the thorax, abdomen and pelvis, according to the Associated Press. The Luis Calvo Mackenna Hospital in Santiago said surgeons are now closing up each girl's wounds.
The babies, named Maria Paz and Maria Jose, have undergone previous operations to separate their legs, urinary tracts, pulmonary systems and other body parts.
Their parents, Jessica Navarrete and Roberto Paredes, waited anxiously during the lengthy procedure, which began Tuesday. Although their little girls had made it through the other surgeries, the wait was still agonizing.
"A miracle from God is what I'm waiting for," Navarrete said.
One of the biggest challenges the surgical team had to face was blood loss, but Navarrete and Paredes made a public plea for blood donations, which helped doctors deal with the excessive bleeding.
Doctors knew this last operation would be very delicate, and very dangerous.
"It's very complex, because they are extensively joined from the neck to the pelvis and passing through the legs. So it's a very complicated operation," Dr. Hector Olguin said.
Surgeons at Mackenna Hospital have successfully separated three other sets of conjoined twins. A fourth set, however, died as a result of cardiac complications.
One out of every 200,000 live births around the world is a set of conjoined twins, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The odds of survival are low - about 40 to 60 percent are stillborn - and, overall, only about 5 to 25 percent of conjoined twins will survive.
Most conjoined twins are girls, and girls are also three times more likely to be born alive.
But Maria Paz and Maria Jose have already defied some of the biggest odds, and their parents believe they will defy the others as well. "We are going to come out of this," Navarrete said, "and it will be wonderful when we are together."