Parents Tell Story of Conjoined Twins

The hand belongs to Jodie, a conjoined twin who is alive only because the closest person in her life is dead.

It’s a tiny gesture from a hand so small that it barely wraps around her father’s finger. But it’s a symbol of hope for a family that was ordered to let Jodie’s twin sister, Mary, die.

Jodie and Mary were separated during a 20-hour operation in Britain last month in which Mary, the weaker of the two, died.

Today, their parents spoke publicly for the first time. They called Jodie a fighter, who was determined to beat the odds. Their mourning for Mary runs deep.

Michaelangelo and Rina Attard spoke in an interview to be broadcast today, after a judge partially lifted a ban on identifying them.

The two girls — known publicly as Jodie and Mary — were born Aug. 8 with fused spines that left them joined at the abdomen.

Court Battle

Doctors said both would die without the surgery but that separation would kill Mary, who was kept alive by Jodie’s heart and lungs.

Their parents, Roman Catholics from the Maltese island of Gozo, opposed the separation on religious grounds. Doctors went to court to win the right to separate them.

Rina Attard said Jodie, who now feeds from a bottle and breathes without a ventilator, was making strong progress following the Nov. 7 operation at St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester.

“She might notice that something has been separated from her so she’s holding our hands much, much stronger,” Attard, 29, told Granada Television’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald program, according to a transcript of the show released before its airing this evening.

“She makes sounds like she is talking with us and she smiles at people and us. It makes us very encouraged for the future. She’s going to be a real fighter,” she said.

Dealing With The Past

Michaelangelo Attard, 44, said he was still coming to terms with Mary’s death. “Even though we were prepared, it was a shock ... We didn’t accept that it was going to happen,” he said.

The Attards, who came to Britain for the birth of their daughters, said they hoped one day to return home with Jodie.

“Hopefully one day we will all go back together, taking Jodie back with us — and Mary, because she is part of our family and will be close to us all the time,” he said.

“We still love them the same, they are both our daughters.”

The couple was paid $215,000 for the television interview. The money will go toward Jodie’s care and medical expenses.

Jodie faces years of corrective surgery and skin grafts but doctors say if she survives she could have normal intelligence, be able to walk, have an average life expectancy and even have children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.