Formerly conjoined twins celebrate 21st birthday and 20th anniversary of separation

Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas have a lot to celebrate.

ByGMA Team via via logo
August 11, 2022, 8:50 AM

Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas are celebrating a huge milestone many didn’t think would happen.

The twins, born in July 2001, just turned 21. They’re not only marking their big birthday but also the 20th anniversary of their physical separation.

Hull and Cajas were just girls when they traveled from a small village in Guatemala to undergo a high-risk separation surgery at UCLA in 2002, a journey ABC station KABC in Los Angeles followed over the years.

PHOTO: Twins Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas were conjoined at the head before they underwent a 23-hour surgery to separate them.
Twins Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas were conjoined at the head before they underwent a 23-hour surgery to separate them.
KABC

They were joined at the head, a rare condition that affects only about one in every 2-and-a-half million babies.

Dr. Mark Urata, an oral and plastic surgeon at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, was on the team that operated on Hull and Cajas.

PHOTO: Dr. Mark Urata was one of the many doctors who helped separate Josie Hull and her twin sister Teresa Cajas, who were formerly conjoined at the head.
Dr. Mark Urata was one of the many doctors who helped separate Josie Hull and her twin sister Teresa Cajas, who were formerly conjoined at the head.
KABC

“Josie and Teresa shared a blood supply because they were connected at the brain. The brain tissue had to be separated,” he explained to ABC News.

Following their 23-hour surgery, Hull and Cajas had setbacks, including brain infections that left Cajas with permanent brain damage and Hull with seizures and other complications.

PHOTO: Formerly conjoined twins Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas.
Formerly conjoined twins Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas.
KABC

But the girls pressed on and even though they now live separately with different families, they are still close. Hull and Cajas reunited for important moments like their 10th birthday, quinceañera, and just recently, their 21st birthday.

“To watch them grow independently and to thrive has been probably one of the greatest joys of both my personal and professional life,” Urata said.

PHOTO: Formerly conjoined twins Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas celebrate their 15th birthdays.
Formerly conjoined twins Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas celebrate their 15th birthdays.
KABC

Today, Hull runs a nonprofit called Once Upon a Room, which she started with a friend when they were 12. The group decorates hospital rooms and encourages pediatric patients in 20 hospitals across the U.S.

For more on Hull and Cajas’ incredible story, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, available on newsstands Friday.

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