By LIZ NEPORENT
Jenni Ezell, the mother of conjoined twins who will be released from Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas today, said the family feels "relief, joy and elation."
The Ezell twins, Owen and Emmitt, were born joined from their breastbone to their hipbones, sharing several organs, including their liver and intestines. Doctors told the Ezells their babies would probably not survive for very long. If they did, it was likely they would undergo multiple painful medical procedures.
Now 9 months old, the baby boys are doing great, Ezell said. So great in fact they’ll being sent to a rehab facility in Dallas for several weeks to several months before finally going home to spend time with their two older brothers, 2-year-old Liam and 7-year-old Ethan.
The twins were successfully separated six weeks after their birth in August. During the nine-hour surgery, a team of surgeons separated the liver and intestines, with the most difficult part being the separation of a shared blood vessel in the liver.
Dr. Tom Renard, the lead pediatric separation surgeon, said the boys have more than doubled their size since birth and are alert and thriving. Infection is always a concern but he said he was encouraged by their progress.
“You can never predict what can happen but these little guys are definitely survivors,” he said.
David Ezell, the father of the twins, said the family is relieved the babies are leaving the hospital but they’re nervous, too.
“I’ll finally have my family together but we are about to face some serious challenges,” he said. “The really frightening life-or-death stuff is behind us but now we worry how about how we are going to pull the rest of it off.”
In the rehab facility, the Ezells will learn to juggle diaper duty with cleaning tracheal tubes, managing the home ventilator that helps the babies breathe and working with the boys on rehabilitation exercises. Jenni Ezell said the task is daunting but that she’s looking forward to caring for her children without relying on a team of doctors and nurses for help.
“I think my 7-year-old will at least help with diaper duty, though I guess it depends on what kind of diaper we’re talking about,” she joked.
Jenni Ezell said she’s grateful that one of the biggest challenges they now face is learning to tell the identical tots apart. The hospital staff painted their nails to make identification easier. Dave Ezell said anyone who spends a little time around them can easily tell them apart from the different personalities.
“Owen opens his eyes a little bit wider and is a little more excitable. Emmitt is more relaxed. His eyes are usually softer and more closed.”
Conjoined twins are rare, occurring in about one in 50,000 to one in 200,000 deliveries, the doctor said. Renard said odds of survival for conjoined twins are typically around 40 to 50 percent.