Knatalye & Adeline: Conjoined twins take first step to separation

  • Family
  • Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014

As conjoined twins Knatalye and Adeline Mata get ready for separation surgery in December, their parents are putting all their hopes on the line.

Conjoined 6-month-old twin girls will begin to undergo tissue expansion beginning in October to stretch skin that will be used to cover patches of their bodies when they are separated in a surgery planned for December.

The tissue expansion for Knatalye Hope Mata and Adeline Faith Mata is expected to take six to eight weeks. The girls are joined at the abdomen and share a liver, diaphragm, pelvis, intestines and the lining of the heart.

“When I think about December I get that sick feeling in my stomach. I want to know how much pain they are going to feel after. What is it going to be like for them?” says their mother, Elysse Mata. “They are where they should be developmentally. They reach up for toys, they reach out for us when we get close and talk to them.”

Faith and Hope: Conjoined twins Adeline Faith and Knatalye Hope Mata are pictured with their mother Elysse Mata at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, the US. – Reuters

The girls were born via caesarean section at nearly eight months’ gestation and will be separated at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston by a team of surgeons in a long and arduous procedure.

“The intestines appear to be intermingled but there appears to be enough intestines for both children,” says Dr Darrell Cass, paediatric surgeon and co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Foetal Centre. The surgery will occur in two shifts with teams of paediatric, urological, plastic, orthopaedic, cardiac and gynaecological surgeons. The separation team will start and the reconstruction team will complete the process.

Surgeons at Texas Children’s Hospital in 1992 successfully separated Tiesha and Iesha Turner, who were 1 year old and shared a sternum, liver, entwined intestines and fused organs.

Conjoined twins occur once every 200,000 births and most do not survive. Approximately 40% to 60% of conjoined twins arrive stillborn, and about 35% live only one day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Centre. Mortality rates for twins who do live and then undergo separation vary, depending on their type of connection and the organs they share, it said.

Conjoined twins Knatalye Hope Mata (front) and Adeline Faith Mata are currently undergoing a skin expansion procedure in preparation for a series of surgery to separate the two from each other. – Reuters 

The Mata family’s life began to change in January when a routine ultrasound showed that Elysse Mata was carrying conjoined twins. They were referred to the Texas Children’s Hospital Fetal Center. The couple and their 5-year-old son relocated from Lubbock to Houston, where the girls were born on April 11.

The babies live in the hospital’s Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which is the centre of the Mata family’s life. Elysse Mata spends at least seven hours at the hospital each day, leaving when it is time to pick her son up from school. John Mata, her husband, works full time and spends every weekend at the hospital with his daughters.

Cass says he expects each child to be able to live independently and to have a good life. “It is likely further reconstructive surgeries may be needed in the future. Perhaps the biggest challenges may be orthopaedic and in helping them walk and have normal gait.” – Reuters

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