Two 9-month-old baby girls, who were born joined at the lower chest and abdomen, made their public debut, bringing much happiness and relief to their proud parents just in time for Christmas.
The twins, Allison June and Amelia Lee Tucker were separated Nov. 7 at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The twins appeared alert and happy, but still sporting nasal tubes at a press conference Wednesday as they were held by their parents, Shellie and Greg Tucker of Adams, N.Y.
Doctors described Allison as the smaller but feistier twin while Ameila is the reserved one. Doctors say they do share one common trait: They’re both fighters.
“We totally expect them to have full, independent lives,” pediatric surgeon Dr. Holly Hedrick told reporters at a press conference.
Allison was discharged from the hospital on Monday and Ameila is expected to be home sometime after the new year, according to doctors.
Shellie Tucker was 20 weeks into her pregnancy when she learned she was going to have twins.
“[The doctor] said, ‘You’re having twins,’ and my heart dropped. And then she said, ‘I think they’re connected,’ and my heart dropped again,” Tucker told ABC News. “Their recommendation was to terminate.”
Tucker and her husband pondered what life would be like for the twins if they decided to go through with the pregnancy.
“We both agreed it wouldn’t be fair to not give them a chance,” Greg Tucker said.
Allison and Ameila were delivered by cesarean section on March 1.
“I instantly said they were gorgeous. They both held on to my fingers, came out screaming and we knew we made the right choice,” Shellie Tucker said.
The twins shared a chest wall, diaphragm, liver and pericardium, the membrane around the heart.
The infants spent the next eight months at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The family made the best of the situation and called the hospital home so they could be close to the twins. The couple’s 2-year-old son, Owen, often turned the hospital hallway into his own playroom.
But it wasn’t all fun and games as the Tuckers knew they were facing a daunting surgery to separate the twins.
One way the doctors prepared for the surgery was by practicing on two dolls sewn together.
“The actual walk-through started with actual baby dolls that didn’t really look as cute as the girls but helped us out,” Hedrick said.
Hedrick had a team of 40 people made up of surgeons and nurses to help with the agonizing seven-hour surgery to separate the twins.
“At the end when the surgeons said they were separate, the weight of the world was off our shoulders,” Greg Tucker said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.