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Formerly Conjoined Twins Fly Home, No Longer One - 2003-01-15

On Monday in California, 17-month-old twins whom until only recently were joined at the head were released from the hospital. They have already left for their home Guatemala. It was an extraordinary operation to separate them. Laura Keel has the story.

Sporting tiny crowns, the twin girls were given a royal farewell from a California hospital. The hospital staff that has cared for Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesus all wanted to hold the babies one last time, Esther Passy included.

“I've been part of a miracle and now my little miracles are going home.”

The landmark surgery that separated the conjoined twins seven months ago lasted 23 hours. Before the operation, the girls could not even see each other. Today, they are seeing not only each other, but a whole new world of possibilities, thanks to Dr. Henry Kawamoto and the other doctors.

“We're reallu exporting some of the best American technology, American good will, and hopefully a message that says people of the world can work together.”

Private donations have paid for their care and return to Guatemala. Dr. Ludwig Ovalle and others will provide care in the twin’s home country.

“We will follow all the recommendations that the doctor from UCLA gives us. And we will be in constant communication with them through the Internet.”

After that, the family will go to a new house donated by a private foundation, a definite improvement over the family dwelling back in their village. The family there has been praying for this day for a long time.

Their grandmother says she is happy, but that only God knows how the girls will turn out. The girls face years of follow-up skin-graft surgeries, and they have yet to learn how to walk and talk. But Dr. Jorge Lazereff, who is traveling with the twins, is optimistic that they may lead normal lives.

“I will go to their weddings, so there's no good bye for these girls.”

No good bye. and a lifetime of hellos.