VCU performs separation surgery on conjoined twins

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Conjoined twin girls are now living separate lives after a successful and rare operation here in Richmond.

Maria and Theresa Tapia were joined at the lower chest and abdomen. A team of pediatric surgeons separated the girls during a 20 hour surgery.

This was the first surgery of its kind at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

The twin girls from the Dominican Republic shared a liver and pancreas.

Doctors said they're doing exceptionally well and their mom couldn't be happier. Tears of joy from Lisandra Sanatis.

Through a translator, Sanatis called the surgeons, who separated her twin 19 month old girls, "angels."

"I thank God and it was really my dream and thank God it came true," said Sanatis.

Their incredible journey began ten months ago through the World Pediatric Project, which links pediatric surgeons to critically-ill children in developing countries.

The girls were brought to Richmond from the Dominican Republic for evaluation and testing. After months of mapping out a treatment plan, surgeons began the complex surgery early Monday morning.

"There were at least five different set of organs systems or organs that were conjoined, thus requiring a long separation operation and reconstruction," said lead surgeon, David Lanning, MD, PhD.

Doctors are optimistic for a full recovery.

"They actually look amazing and all their organs are functioning very well," said Dr. Lanning.

The girls are on breathing machines right now, but we're told they're alert. Doctors said they could return home as early as five weeks from now.

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