Formerly conjoined twins Allyson and Avery Clark have only been separated for a few days, but Allyson already is enjoying her independence.
“Avery misses her sister a little bit more than her sister misses her,” said Anna Clark, mother of the 8-month-old girls and a Paso Robles native.
The twins, who were joined by a fused spinal cord, were separated Tuesday at Primary Children’s Medical Center. They were expected to stay at least a week, but were sent home Friday.
“They’re doing great,” Dr. John Kestle, who coordinated the procedure, said Friday.
Doctors said they just needed to run a few tests to make sure the bladders were completely functioning.
“They’re certainly wetting their diapers,” Kestle said.
Doctors took slightly more than an hour Tuesday to successfully separate the conjoined twins whose spinal cords were fused at the lower back.
“It really couldn’t be any better. There was no bad news at all,” said Kerry Clark, father of Allyson and Avery Clark.
Surgeons at Primary Children’s Medical Center made the first incision at 10:20 a.m. MDT and completed separating the twins by 11:26 a.m., said Kestle.
Allyson and Avery spent about 6 1/2 hours in the operating room before being placed in separate beds for the first time.
There were no surprises: Doctors discovered fused spinal cords that made a U-shape and found a space between nerves to cut them, Kestle said.
A team of plastic surgeons took about 90 minutes to close the twins’ wounds, Dr. Faizi Siddiqi said. Expanding balloons filled with saline that were placed under the twins’ skin in May gave surgeons plenty of tissue to work with, he said.
The surgery occurred 10 months after Maliyah and Kendra Herrin, now 5, were separated at the same hospital. It was the fourth separation surgery at the hospital since 1998.
The Clark surgery was not as difficult. The Herrin twins were joined mid-torso and shared a kidney, a liver, a bladder and other organs. Their separation and subsequent reconstructive surgery lasted 26 hours.
There is a set of conjoined twins in every 50,000 to 100,000 live births. Only about 20 percent survive to become viable candidates for separation and most separation surgeries occur when twins are a year old or less.
Recovery Kerry and Anna Clark were waiting outside the operating room to greet their daughters. Avery’s surgery was completed first, with Allyson following 11 minutes later.
“It was kind of strange,” Kerry Clark said after the twins were separated. “They are a lot skinnier looking.”
Allyson and Avery are still adjusting to life apart and may sleep in the same crib when they go home, their mother said.
They’re also getting used to seeing and touching all of each other for the first time.
“They’ve never actually gotten a good look at each other,” said Anna Clark. “They figure they’ve gotten a new play toy.”
Their father said he’s “relieved” by the successful surgery and pleased that the girls soon will join their other sisters, ages 6, 4 and 2.
“It’s great. You can flip ’em over and get them to look at you or do whatever you like,” he said.
Before the surgery, driving with the twins was a challenge that won’t be missed.
They were transported in an oversized car seat that could only fit in the front seat.
Children at that age are supposed to face the back, but the seat was too large to be turned around.
“We had to break some rules just because there was no other way,” Kerry Clark said.