Emily and Caitlin Copeland, twin sisters from Houston, TX, have shared everything throughout their 18 years. It was not a surprise when they were given the honor of representing their fellow Lutheran High North students as co-valedictorians for the Class of 2014. They say that twins share a special bond that lasts a life time, but this may be doubly true for twins who once shared the same body. That’s right — the Copeland sisters are formerly conjoined twins who are happy, healthy and very smart young women today.
Their story is so #good because it could have ended before kindergarten if not for the skilled medical staff who cared for them during their first days and subsequent separation procedure.
Conjoined Twins No More (But Still Awesomely Connected)
We are not entirely surprised anymore when we read about conjoined twins who will soon, or recently did, undergo separation surgery. However, it is worth noting that for every 200,000 births, only one is an instance of conjoined twins. Sadly, only 35% of these newborns survive past their first day of life, while 40%-60% conjoined twin pregnancies result in stillbirth. Media coverage of this phenomena is prompted by the rareness of survival and the advances in surgical separation technology.
When the Copeland girls were born, they had multiple health issues — which is not uncommon for conjoined twins, but concerning nonetheless. One major problem prompted surgery for the two-day-old babies: a blocked intestine. The Houston-based Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital Surgeon in Chief, Dr. Kevin Lally, performed the procedure, and at the time, he considered performing the separation then and there. When the children were born, the medical staff was pleased to discover that the girls were joined at the liver, not the heart. And yet, when the intestinal surgery began, it was clear the Copelands’ organs were more dependent upon one of the girls, so they waited. Even with the delay, Lally was confident the conjoined twins could be independent.
After 10 months, Lally and his team separated the girls, and the formerly conjoined twins have thrived in the 17 years since this life-changing surgery. The Copelands recently celebrated their 18th birthday and visited with Lally, the person who skillfully cared for them in their first months of life.
We are inspired by Dr. Kevin Lally and Emily and Caitlin Copeland, and we are thankful for the hope their story brings into this world. Congratulations, Copelands — we look forward to seeing all of the #good you two will do in our world!