Erika and Eva Sandoval, the conjoined Sacramento sisters who were successfully separated at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford on Dec. 6, were released from the hospital Thursday after months of recovery.
The 2-year-old girls left their Antelope home in October to move to Palo Alto, where they received medical care while awaiting a risky separation surgery. Eva and Erika were conjoined from the chest down, sharing a liver, bladder and some of their digestive system as well as a third leg. Doctors at Lucile Packard estimated a 30 percent chance that one or both girls could die during the procedure.
After 17 hours of separation and reconstruction surgeries, both twins survived the operation with no major complications. Doctors removed their shared third leg and used the skin to help cover Erika’s wound, while Eva’s wounds were closed mostly with skin from the tissue expanders that surgeons inserted in the girls’ torsos and backs in the months before surgery.
Both girls stayed at Packard after separation so physicians could monitor their wounds for infection. They also received physical and occupational therapy to help them learn how to move, according to a press release from Lucile Packard. Erika healed more quickly than Eva and was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 13, though she was readmitted on March 4 due to vomiting. Both girls were official released from the hospital Thursday.
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Ambulances Thursday transported Eva and Erika to UC Davis Children’s Hospital, where they’ll undergo a few weeks of inpatient rehabilitation before returning to their Antelope home, according to the release.
“I’m over the moon,” said Aida Sandoval, the twins’ mother. “It’s still surreal seeing them separate, knowing that it’s still them as two individual bodies. Now we’re just waiting for their next chapter to begin, and the anticipation is indescribable.”
Aida, a former airline agent, and her husband, Arturo, a heavy-equipment mechanic, have devoted the last 2 1/2 years to caring for the girls, who spent their first six months after birth at Lucile Packard. They grew into happy, talkative toddlers despite the constraints of their conjoined bodies, but they regularly contracted fevers and infections that sent them back to Palo Alto.
Now separated, the girls can sit on their own and will work with UC Davis staff to improve their mobility with one leg, likely relying on wheelchairs, according to the release. It’s unclear whether the pelvic bones each girl was left with after surgery will be able to support prosthetic legs.
“Improving their functional mobility will be really important in getting them to continue adapting to their new bodies,” said Kelly Andrasik, an occupational therapist who has worked with the twins at Packard Children’s, in the release. “The specialized equipment that an inpatient rehab like Davis offers will really help them with this.”