Formerly Conjoined Toddlers Released From Va. Hospital

20-Month-Olds Still Walk While Holding Hands

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Two formerly conjoined toddlers were discharged Friday from a Virginia hospital, about three weeks after receiving separation surgery.

    Maria and Teresa Tapia, 20 months, underwent a complicated, nearly daylong surgery on Nov. 8 at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University. In a series of procedures, the surgical team divided the twins' liver, pancreas and other shared organ systems, and reconstructed their abdominal walls.

    While they're getting accustomed to exploring their surroundings separately, they still stay near each other and hold hands when they walk.

    "They are enjoying life now that they're separated," said their mother, Lisandra Sanatis. "They enjoy seeing themselves as individuals."

    The family will remain in Richmond while they undergo outpatient therapy to relearn how to walk, and otherwise discover how to orient their movements now that they've been separated.

    They're expected to return to their Dominican Republic home by Christmas.

    After being in Richmond for several months now, Sanatis says she and her daughters are more than ready to leave the confines of the hospital and are anxious to return to their family in their native country.

    "We're missing our family, and the girls miss their little brother, Lisander," Sanatis said.

    They also haven't acquired a taste for American fare -- including hospital meals -- preferring instead to get takeout Dominican food, including the traditional beans and rice and other dishes.

    Well-wishers have extended their support, including Rocio Castanos, a friend of the Dominican first lady who popped in Thursday for a visit on the twins' last full day in the hospital. Castanos, who lives in Richmond, brought each girl a stuffed animal and offered to cook them some sancocho, a traditional Dominican soup.

    Dr. David Lanning, a surgeon and head of the medical team that is caring for the 20-month-old girls, says both children have been recovering well.

    Maria, the smaller of the two, weighs 19 pounds, about 20 percent less than her sister at 26 pounds. Lanning expects the disparity in their weight -- caused by the configuration of their small intestines and blood flow from the liver -- to gradually even out.

    Maria's pancreas is slow to produce digestive enzymes, but she is taking replacement enzymes. Teresa is undergoing treatment on the incision where the girls were separated.

    "They appear to have adjusted to being separated very well and while they enjoy spending time together," Lanning said. "They don't appear to need to be right next to each other or in the same crib."