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VCU surgeons successfully separate conjoined twin girls from Franklin

Posted on: 4:31 pm, April 23, 2013, by and , updated on: 11:41pm, April 23, 2013

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  • BEFORE SURGERY: Six-month-old conjoined twins, A’zhari and A’zhiah Jones, with mother, Nachell Jones, and father, Carlos Lawrence.

  • BEFORE SURGERY: Family members make 6-month-old conjoined twins, A’zhari and A’zhiah giggle and smile moments before surgery.

  • BEFORE SURGERY: Hospital chaplain Josh Andrzejewski prays with the family of conjoined twins A’zhari and A’zhiah Jones before surgery.

  • BEFORE SURGERY: A’zhari holds her mother Nachell’s hand.

  • BEFORE SURGERY: A’zhari (pink bow) and A’zhiah (blue bow) gaze at the camera.

  • Dr. David Lanning, lead surgeon for the Jones twins’ separation surgery, embraces the girls’ mother Nachell and delivered the news that the surgery was a success.

  • A group of over 40 surgeons and pediatric specialists participated in 14 hour surgery and the care of the girls over the past six months.

  • Dr. David Lanning completes the separation by moving A’zhari to a separate table.

  • A group of over 40 surgeons and pediatric specialists participated in 14 hour surgery and the care of the girls over the past six months.

  • A group of over 40 surgeons and pediatric specialists participated in 14 hour surgery and the care of the girls over the past six months

  • The OR team brings A’zhari back to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to recover.

  • Neonatal nurse Monica An and A’zhari’s parents watch over and smile as the 6-month-old formerly conjoined twin rests in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

  • BEFORE SURGERY: Nachell Jones holds her daughters, A’zhiah (blue armband) and A’zhari (pink armband). The twins are wearing a dress made by faculty and students in the VCU Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising.

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.”

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