Formerly conjoined twins discharged from hospital

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A little more than three weeks ago, Maria and Teresa Tapia were conjoined twins. They traveled from their home in the Dominican Republic to Richmond, where they underwent a 20 hour, first of its kind operation at The Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU. Today, they left the hospital and stepped into a whole new life.

These girls can make you smile and tear up at the same time! That's exactly what happened today as they were discharged from the hospital after a remarkable surgery just over three weeks ago. A new chapter for the twins has begun.

A round of applause, mirrored by the twin girls, who've captured many hearts within these hospital walls.

"It's a pride and joy and everyone's a little bit teary. They've been so attached to the girls," said lead surgeon Dr. David Lanning.

Little Teresa blew kisses to the medical team that gave her and her sister Maria a chance to live a life their mother dreamed of.

A bittersweet goodbye for mom too. Through a translator, Lisandra Sanatis gave thanks.

"It's hard for me because I fell in love with everyone here and they've been so supportive. But I'm happy to be able to go back home," said Sanatis.

Last month, doctors took on a nearly day-long surgical procedure to separate the girls who were joined at the lower chest and abdomen. Since then, they've taken their first steps, apart.

"Their therapy is going great. Pretty soon they're going to be running on their own," said Dr. Lanning.

Dr. Lanning said other than possible cosmetic surgery on their belly buttons, they won't need any more operations. But they're not returning to the Dominican Republic just yet.

Maria and Teresa won't be too far away from the hospital. They'll stay here at the Hospitality House just a few blocks away as they undergo outpatient therapy.

"Doctors estimated the girls would leave the hospital less than a month after surgery, the best case scenario for such a rare and complex operation," said Dr. Lanning.

An experience he said they'll learn from and one these girls will one day look back on as a remarkable chapter in their lives.

Doctor Lanning said the girls on track to return home by Christmas. After they've returned home, the lead surgeon said he'll pay the girls a visit to see how they're doing. He will also keep tabs on them through doctors in the Dominican Republic.

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