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Twins Separated, Healing Begins

   |  Posted Aug 9th, 2006 @ 4:00pm

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"It is because of them that our girls are doing so well right now. And we'd like to thank them."

Parents of separated twins, Kendra and Maliyah Herrin praised the surgeons at Primary Children's Hospital for giving the four-year olds a new lease on life.

The twins' first day and night separated went very well, which is remarkable considering the magnitude of the surgery they went through.

Jake and Erin Herrin and the head of the medical team held a news conference this afternoon. The parents said the first thing they noticed about their girls after the surgery was their positioning, based on how they were when conjoined.

Erin Herrin: "When we walked in, we realized that Kendra and Maliyah were on the wrong sides. They weren't on the same sides that they were, being conjoined. And that was kind of a shock in itself."

The Herrins are still amazed how well things have gone so far. They say their faith and the prayers of so many people have brought them to this point.

The head of the surgical team said that despite their separation, the twins continue to respond to medical treatment together, in the same way. Dr. Myers says they've seen it before in conjoined twins, but it's a medical mystery as to why it happens.

Four-year-old Kendra and Maliyah Herrin are unconscious and in critical condition, which is expected, following the marathon operation to separate the twins who until Monday night, were connected at the pelvis.

It was a painstaking operation with an incredible outcome. Now, four year old Kendra and Maliyah Herrin are two separate girls in two separate beds in Primary Children's ICU. A 26-hour surgery results in a "re-birth" of sorts for twin four-year old girls; now the healing process begins.

"This is the beginning of a long journey. It's not the end."

Let's begin with Monday night with a very emotional dad and mom and family waiting for the announcement in a room at Primary.

Nurse: "They're each in their own little bed now and we'll start reconstruction now. And they're doing great."

When the news came there was hugging, crying and applause. The final cut, which separated the two, came just before 11 pm. Dr. Michael Matlak quickly took Kendra, no longer conjoined with her sister, into an another room.

Erin woke her six-year old daughter at home to break the good news.

Erin Herrin: "They are in different rooms for the first time. Isn't that exciting?"

Jake Herrin calls it a "rebirth."

Jake Herrin: "All good news. I just would have never imagined it would go this well. I know there will be ups and downs, but more ups hopefully. But they're surprising us every day; every minute they're surprising us."

For four years, the twins have played and laughed with their family. That won't change, except now they'll do it separately, as two distinct people.

There have been many prayers from the family and thousands more, not to mention a remarkable support group of family. Jake and Erin say it all came together Monday night.

"We'll never forget this day as long as we live."

After separation, with the girls in separate beds and rooms, surgery continued for reconstruction of the pelvis ring and abdomen. Dr. Matlak carried the twins later Tuesday morning with skin now covering their separation wounds.

Michael Matlock, M.D., Pediatric Surgeon: "I got tears in my eyes because they look so good. It just went better than I thought it would be."

More obstacles to come, but so far, no surprises, just successes.

Rebecka Meyers, M.D., Lead Surgeon: "I don't think it could have gone better. We're thrilled."

It's not going to be easy in weeks to come. These girls will be healing from this operation at least for the next two to three months. And how well the girls heal will determine if much more surgery is needed in the future.

Both girls have a large wound where they were separated. Doctors will be watching that closely so it doesn't become infected. As far as if the girls will require more surgery, it all depends on how well they heal.

Dr. Madlock: "But I feel like a lot of definitive things have been done, and if they heal properly, there's not a lot of more surgery that they're going to require. I'm hoping that this is gonna be near the end, not for Malia because she's going to need a kidney transplant, but for Kendra, I'm hoping that things are going to work out well for her."

Doctors will be keeping a close eye on Maliyah while she is on dialysis, looking for complications of not having a kidney -- like excess fluid in her body.

Both girls right now are in critical condition, that's expected. They may not fully be conscious for several days, that's expected too. Again, only time will tell what needs to be done next.

The North Salt Lake twins were born fused at the midsection, sharing a liver, a kidney, a pelvis one set of legs and part of their intestines.

The Herrins' separation is believed to be the first performed on conjoined twins with a shared kidney, said the hospital's chief of pediatric surgery, Dr. Rebecka Meyers.

Conjoined twins occur about once in every 50,000 to 100,000 births. Only about 20 percent survive to become viable candidates for separation.

In most instances, conjoined twins undergo separation surgery between ages 6 and 12 months, but the Herrin's shared kidney forced a delay.

Upon completion of the separation surgery, a nurse told the family, "They're each in their own little bed now and we'll start reconstruction. They're doing great."

Erin Herrin, 25, broke into tears and fell into the arms of her 26-year-old husband, Jake Herrin. Relatives applauded.

Jake Herrin says it's like a rebirth. In fact, everybody in the family will now celebrate another birthday - August 7th.

"I know there will be ups and downs, but more ups hopefully," Jake says. "They're surprising us every day, every minute they are surprising us."

The couple said they were nervous about seeing the girls separate for the first time.

"I don't know that it's set in yet," Jake Herrin said. "We're not going to feel totally comfortable until they're out of the OR and everything's stable."

"And we can hold them," his wife added.

The couple, who also have a 6-year-old daughter and twin 14-month-old boys, said they were eager to tell the girls how brave they had been and how proud they've made the family.

Erin - with family - woke her six-year-old daughter at home to tell her the good news.

Jake Herrin even cracked a few surgery jokes.

"Most people say, 'You made it through in one piece," he said. "We can say, "You guys made it through in two."'


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(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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