Abby and Erin Delaney are twin girls who were born joined at the head.
Their parents went to great lengths to keep them alive and give them the best life possible. Despite facing many challenges, they have now found their own happiness, impressing both their family and medical team with their incredible resilience and unwavering determination.
Their parents were overjoyed with the news of expecting, but it wasn’t without its difficulties.
Heather and Riley, a newlywed couple, were overjoyed to discover that she got pregnant just two months after their wedding. But what made them even more happy was discovering during the ultrasound that she was carrying not just one, but two precious bundles of joy.
It wasn’t a total surprise considering Heather’s sisters are identical twins, but what really shocked them was finding out that the twins were connected to each other. After consulting with a specialist, it was confirmed that the twins were joined at the top of their heads, a rare type of connection called conjoined twins. This type of conjoined twins is quite rare, making up only about 2 percent of cases.
“When we first found out we went into shock first, we had no idea what to think,” Heather said. “It’s something you only see on TV, I thought this doesn’t actually happen to people.”
The couple received the news that their daughters had only a 2% chance of survival, and might undergo a rare separation surgery after they were born. Although the procedure had been done before, it had not been performed at their local hospital. But if in case the separation could be an option, the specialist suggested considering the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Doctor Gregory Heuer explains, “They just share the skull and the coverings, but they also share this important vein that goes down the middle, which is called the sagittal sinus, which is where 20% of your cardiac output goes through.” Thus, Heather underwent a series of tests to gather more information like a high-resolution fetal ultrasound and a fetal echocardiogram to examine the babies’ hearts.
She says, “Everybody was trying to find the best way to care for our girls when they were born.”
Their birth and the separation surgery
During Heather’s check-up at 26 weeks, an ultrasound unexpectedly showed that the umbilical cords of the girls had gotten tangled up. Concerned about the situation, the medical team advised her to stay in Philadelphia for better monitoring of the babies. Eventually, on July 24, 2016, ten weeks earlier than expected, Abby and Erin were born.
Their mom claimed
In October, they performed a surgical procedure on the twins to separate the fused area of their skulls. Over the following five months, they carried several additional surgeries out as part of the separation process.
On June 6, 2017, after over 10 months after their birth, an extensive 11-hour surgery successfully separated the girls. A team of medical professionals collaborated closely during this intricate and high-risk procedure. Although the most challenging part was over, the weeks following the surgery had their share of difficulties as the girls gradually recovered.
Once their conditions allowed, Erin and Abby promptly began intensive physical and occupational therapy, and, five months later, the girls were finally discharged from the hospital, marking a significant milestone in their journey.
“Although this has been a long journey, with many ups and downs, Riley and I are thrilled to see how well the girls are doing today,” said Heather. “We are so grateful for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia team, and for the support and encouragement that our families, our friends, and the community have given us during this long journey.”
The twin girls have just graduated from kindergarten.
These days, after overcoming countless challenges and undergoing several surgeries, the little girls are finally living a life that resembles normalcy. Although the twins will need additional plastic and reconstructive surgeries as they grow up, they have ultimately reached their happy life.
Abby and Erin are experiencing delays in their development compared to other kids, all because of their unique condition. Erin achieved the incredible milestone of walking at 5, while Abby is currently taking her first steps toward learning to walk.
“We’re their parents, and we just see them for who they are, and not what’s wrong with them,” their mom says.
Against all odds, the girls have now accomplished a remarkable feat that many thought was beyond their reach—graduating from kindergarten. “We want to show there is the possibility they can be separated and then lead healthy and happy lives,” their mom stated. As for her girls, she added, “the sky is the limit for them.”
This shows that life can be full of tough moments, but with hope and determination, we can conquer any obstacle. Erin and Abby’s parents have walked every step of this challenging journey, and now they want to inspire other parents facing similar struggles.
“It has always been our goal in sharing our story to try and reach any other parents faced with the same type of pregnancy we were to give them hope,” Heather said.
Twins have always been intriguing, and their world is filled with fascinating and emotional stories. Take, for example, this amazing mom who happily gave birth to her twin baby girls on a super special day of the year.