A young pair of conjoined twins in California have survived a risky 17-hour surgery separating their shared lower body. Towards the end of the procedure, the doctor paused and gasped - realizing the little girls were going to be fine.
Eva and Erika Sandoval, 2, were born conjoined from their chest down, according to the Sacramento Bee. The sisters shared a liver, a bladder, their digestive system, and a third leg with seven toes.
The twins' parents, Aida and Arturo, realized that their daughters were having worse health problems each month, from dehydration to numerous urinary tract infections, Daily Mail reports. The couple made the difficult decision to attempt to separate their daughters.
With a 30 percent risk that one or both of the twins wouldn't survive the surgery, the sisters entered an operating room at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. After a more than 17 hour surgery, the twins had been successfully separated, and both survived.
"The twins did very well," said lead surgeon Dr. Gary Hartman. "I'm very pleased; this is as good as we could have asked for."
"They look amazing. They’re amazing. They have their hair done, and they’re resting," Aida said. "We’re just going to take it one day at a time and let them catch up on their rest."
The girls now each have a portion of their previously shared liver, bladder, and small intestine. The pair have one leg each.
Conjoined twins are rare, with numbers as few as 1 in every 200,000 births. Around half of conjoined twins are stillborn, making Eva and Erika's story of survival even more remarkable.
Jennifer Grouch, a family friend, said that hearing that the twins survived the surgery was a major relief.
"I was just completely overwhelmed with emotion," Grouch said. "The last couple of days we just tried to control our thoughts and tried to only think positive. Now, hearing that it’s actually going well, is like finally being able to breathe."
Aida said that now that the girls have been separated, the two will have a chance for more independence.
"In moments where one is tired or she's sick, and the other wants to go play, I want her to be able to do that," said the twins' mother.
"That's something they'll get when they're separated - their individual limelight."
Sources: Daily Mail, Sacramento Bee / Photo Credit: Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford via Daily Mail