For a set of Texas twins, being joined at the hip is not just a cliche—that was basically the first 10 months of their lives. On Tuesday, Emily and Caitlin Copeland, who were born conjoined at the liver, are celebrating their 18th birthday by enjoying the success of a separation surgery that has allowed them to lead normal lives and graduate as co-valedictorians from Lutheran High North in Houston. Conjoined twins are a phenomenon that occurs once in every 200,000 live births. Between 40 per cent and 60 per cent are stillborn, and some 35 per cent survive one day.
I think for anyone it’s exciting to get to 18, but in particular for us I think it’s just a really big blessing that we got to 18, considering what could have happened.
Caitlin Copeland, who was born a conjoined twin
The complications after the twins were born were worrisome. One was born with a blocked intestine, and surgery had to be conducted when they were just 2 days old. Dr. Kevin Lally, surgeon in chief at Hermann Memorial Children’s Hospital in Houston, wanted to separate them at that point, but when the surgery began doctors discovered they were not only conjoined at the liver but the organs were discharging through only one twin. So doctors decided to wait for them to get bigger for the separation surgery. Faced now with two smiling teenagers, rather than screaming toddlers who had to raise their shirts so he could inspect their scars, Lally smiles.
You don’t always see the long-term results of what we do, and it’s nice when you get to see a good one.
Dr. Kevin Lally, surgeon in chief at Hermann Memorial Children’s Hospital in Houston