Six-month old twins A’zhari and A’zhiah were born conjoined, but mom Nachell Jones could always tell her two girls apart.
“They are sassy,” she says. “They are spoiled. They’re just everything. They have their own personalities.”
The twins, from Franklin, were born connected at the chest and abdomen. They shared a liver and pericardium, the double-walled sac containing the heart.
Their separation Monday in Richmond was the first of its kind in history. This was the first time doctors successfully separated conjoined twins in phases, with both twins sharing vital organs.
But in the beginning, for mom and dad, the future for their little girls looked bleak.
“I was sad,” Jones says. I was crying.”
A few weeks after birth the girls became critically ill. It left doctors no choice but to separate their conjoined liver in October. They were still too young and weak to live fully apart.
Four months later tissue expanders were placed in the twins’ abdomens to help grow excess skin for reconstruction.
Doctors were finally ready for the second and final phase early Monday morning.
“I was ready,” Jones says. “I have good faith. I didn’t have anything to worry about.”
After 14-hours in surgery and nearly 40 physicians, surgeons, and nurses helping out, A’zhari and A’zhiah were separated at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
“Like a big brick came off,” says dad Carlos Lawrence. “I just got release. Everything in me just felt better.”
Doctors say the girls will live full, happy and healthy lives as individuals. Doctors don’t think the twins will need any more operations or any long term medications.
“A’ziah is going to be the talker and A’zhari, she’s going to be laid back,” Jones says. “I think they are going to forever be friends. No one is going to break their bond.”