In September I was tagged in a Facebook message by a dear friend. She had just heard about a young mom in Uganda who had given birth to twin baby girls that were conjoined and needed immediate colostomy surgery. A group of facebook friends rallied together and were able to raise the money needed for the babies to travel to Kampala and have the life saving surgery at five days old. It was a success. The babies stayed in the hospital where they could be monitored and have tests done.
We learned shortly after that the surgery needed to separate the babies couldn't safely be done in Uganda. I volunteered to start looking for a hospital here in the US willing to preform the delicate separation surgery for free. I was shocked and thrilled when our local children's hospital agreed!
After lots and lots of paperwork and fundraising sweet Esther, Apio & Acen arrived in Ohio shortly after Christmas. They have been in the hospital since arrival. The original plan was they would be hospitalized for their initial surgery (more on that in a second) and then come home with us for a few months until it was time to separate them but the doctors decided not to send them home and have kept them in the hospital until the separation surgery. They are all three doing amazingly well and have been such a joy to have here!
The process to separate these sweet babies is long and complicated! After their initial tests we learned that the babies were indeed good candidates for separation! Their spines are not fused but are touching in a very small area. This is good news on one hand (two separate spines!) but there is a little bit of concern about the touching and their ability to walk after separation. There is no way to tell what will happen until they are actually separated. The babies had tissue expanders put in a few weeks ago. These will slowly be inflated to stretch the skin so they have enough tissue to work with when they are actually separated. Unfortunately they ended up with an infection and doctors had to remove two of the expanders. They left one in. We were originally told that they might be able to get away with this one tissue expander but I was heard Sunday that they may go back in soon to put another expander in. So we're going to have to wait and see what the plastic surgeons decide. The first expander should be inflated for the first time this week. We excited to get the skin expansion started! The babies are happy and fat, exactly as babies their age should be. Everyone who meets them falls in love.
Their brave momma, Esther, is staying at the hospital with them. Despite being young and away from everything familiar to her, she is doing so very well. We have a volunteer coming in once a week to help her learn English. She thoroughly enjoys watching Ugandan videos on her TV, eating popcorn and enjoying some of the luxuries we take for granted here in the US. (Indoor plumbing, washing machines, a microwave, etc). She isn't terribly impressed with the cold. :) When we've had a translator talk to her the one thing she has told us is that she is so very grateful for everyone helping her babies. Whenever we ask her anything her response is the same "as long as the babies are OK, I'm OK."
Separation surgery is probably not going to happen until early summer so realistically Esther and the babies will be with us for many more months. They have a long journey ahead of them. None of this would be possible if not for the amazing group of people who have rallied around to help these little ones. From the hospital and doctors who have donated their time and efforts (at the request of the hospital I am keeping details vague for now), far away friends who helped Esther and the babies actually get here (Jodi, Melissa, Annie, Pastor Fred and more I'm probably forgetting), local friends who take time out of their week to go visit Esther, do laundry, bring food, hold babies (Amie, Amy, Christine, Susan, Rebeka, Sue, Kristen...) friends and strangers who donated money to get them here and for their stay in the US, the local moms who heard about the babies and left mountains of clothes, toys, and equipment on my front porch for this little family, the people who have mailed us fuel cards to cover the cost of driving back and forth to the hospital and so much more. There are some amazingly generous people out there - on behalf of Esther and the babies, thank you.
I will keep you all updated! Please pray for their continued health during this time.