Thirteen-month-old twins Anias and Jadon McDonald were born conjoined at the head. And that is how they lived their lives, until this past week, when doctors at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx successfully separated them after a 27-hour surgery that included rebuilding their skulls.
This surgery, led by Dr. James Goodrich, was only the 59th time since 1952 that such an operation has taken place, according to CNN. Part of its success is thanks to a 3D model of the McDonald boys' heads that helped the surgical team navigate the life-or-death procedures.
Indeed, Nicole and Christian McDonald, who said their twins were like all other babies except for being conjoined, were overjoyed that their boys made it through the highly-risky surgery, which could have lead to death or long-term brain damage for one, or both. But as CNN also reports, leaving Anias and Jadon attached at the head would have carried even more risks.
McDonald shared what it was like to see her boys separated for the first time in a deeply moving Facebook post, writing, "Finally reunited. How surreal. I now realize that I always saw you as separate because seeing you like this is really nothing different to me. When I stand at your bedside, Jadon, it's almost as if Anias is still there. Anias, when I leaned over you I protected my hair from Jadon. But the view is still the same. This is how I always saw you. I love you so much. Now it's time to step forward into the new chapter of our life. I'm ready to fight and I know you are too. Thank you, Dr Goodrich, Dr Tepper, Kamilah, Martine, Dr Kahana, Dr Mann and everyone else at Montefiore. Your hands performed a miracle today. We love you."
Despite all they've been through, and the many donations and encouraging messages pouring in for this amazing family, McDonald also writes on her Facebook page, "It's hard for me to take any credit for the miracle that these boys are. All I did was birth beautiful, unique children and love them with all I have. There are mothers everywhere who do that on a daily basis. I'd like to direct the attention back to the true heroes of our story."
She also clarifies that she did not want their story to go public, and is struggling with all the attention. "Our biggest desire was to show how brilliant the team at Montefiore has been and to give the hospital the credit it deserves. The real heroes of this story are the people who have put countless hours, days and months into the success of today." McDonald adds, "Dr. Goodrich was a God-send from the beginning."
She goes on to say about her husband, "He gave up so many dreams, so many goals to move here with me and become a stay at home dad. He takes care of our three year old and all of the processes that need to occur for these boys to be in the hospital. He makes me laugh when I'm crying. He picks me up off the floor when I just can't seem to go on."
What an amazing, humble family. Here's hoping Jadon and Anias a healthy, happy, long life ahead, separated in body, but always connected in heart.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.