Emily and Caitlin Copeland, who were born as conjoined twins, recently celebrated their 18th birthday as two separate individuals.
The girls, who were born joined at the liver, took their birthday as a day to celebrate a successful separation that allowed them to, not only live normal lives like other kids, but graduate co-valedictorians from Lutheran High North in Houston, Texas.
"I think for anyone it's exciting to get to 18, but in particular for us I think it's just a really big blessing that we got to 18, considering what could have happened," Caitlin said.
Crystal Copeland, the girl's mother, found out that she was pregnant with conjoined twins, which occur in approximately one out of 200,000 live births, in 1996. Crystal was shocked and didn't know what to think. "At the time, if you Googled conjoined twins all you got was circus acts and babies that died," she said.
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Many cases of conjoined twins are born stillborn. However, Crystal said she had felt the girls kicking and had seen them on the ultrasound and considered them alive and healthy. Crystal met with Dr. Kevin Lally, a surgeon in chief at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston on a Friday to have him evaluate the girls.
Then on Monday, after an anxious weekend, Crystal and her husband got the news that they had been hoping for. "They were joined at the liver, not at the heart, which would have been, you know, fatal," Copeland said. "He thought there were good opportunities for separation where they would both be able to live basically normal lives."
The girls underwent their first surgery at only two days old to remove a blockage from one of the girls intestines. The doctors wanted to separate them then, but noticed that the other organs were discharging through only one twin and they decided to wait.
The girls were later separated successfully, and have exceeded every milestone that the doctors had for them. "You don't always see the long-term results of what we do, and it's nice when you get to see a good one," Lally said.
Image via Wikimedia Commons