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Conjoined Twins Share Heart, Liver; Survived Birth Against All Odds

Beating the enormous odds against their survival, a pair of conjoined twins got through birth. Now 13 days old, the twin boys are at home with their parents.

Michelle Van Horn of Indiana, Penn., was at the end of her first trimester when she found out that her twins were conjoined. She recalls that she and her boyfriend Kyle Stancombe “were told that I was going to have a stillbirth.”

When the babies arrived safely on April 10, they were sharing two vital organs – a heart and a liver. Van Horn and Stancombe made the decision not to separate them; the boys, Andrew and Garrett, are conjoined from the chest to the navel.

Van Horne said that the boys are “doing everything a normal infant would do. That’s why we see them as our miracle babies.”

She added that the boys were breathing well and crying.

Although dressing the boys has proved to be a bit of a challenge, the new parents are tackling the task with a bit of creativity.

“We basically take two outfits and snap them together,” Van Horn explained.

The University of Maryland Medical Center offers statistics on just how rare conjoined twins are: this unusual occurrence happens one in every 200,000 births.

Furthermore, approximately 60 percent of conjoined twins arrive stillborn; about 35 percent of twins only survive one day. In situations where parents decide to separate conjoined twins surgically, about 75% of these surgeries result in at least one twin surviving.

Of the approximately 200 pairs of conjoined twins who are born alive each year, about one half die before their first birthday.

Van Horn knows that the fact that her sons have survived this long is a miracle; at the same time, she has noted that caring for her sons is a heartbreaking task, because she knows they might not survive.

“They’ll continue to fight until it’s their time,” Van Horn stated. “We will love them and cherish them until that moment and continue even after.”

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