They lay side by side, Anias in a blue jumpsuit along with Jadon in a gray one. They wore specially fitted white helmets, however there was no evidence of the tubes, IVs or monitors in which have been their lifelines since surgery.
Outside the room, more than 30 doctors, nurses along with staff at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center lined the hallway. A red carpet was rolled out for the boys.
the item was time to say goodbye.
Among those on hand Wednesday were lead neurosurgeon Dr. James Goodrich along with lead plastic surgeon Dr. Oren Tepper. Both were armed with celebratory baby rattles. Others waved pom-poms along with shook tambourines as the boys made their way down the hall of the 10th-floor pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
The staff had posted a sign on the wall: “Way to go! You did the item! We are so proud of you.”
Sitting at the front of the wagon was the boys’ 3-year-old brother, Aza.
The boys’ father, Christian McDonald, pulled the wagon as their mother, Nicole, walked with them. Both parents paused to hug almost everyone.
The moment stood in stark contrast to the boys’ arrival on February 18. On in which day, the twins were on a private flight to brand new York via Illinois. While within the air, Anias stopped breathing along with turned blue. Nicole, a pediatric physical therapist, did everything she knew to try to rouse him along with worried Jadon could soon be next.
“the item was a 10-minute period when all of This specific was happening where (Anias) was in along with out of consciousness,” Nicole said.
They were rushed to the emergency room immediately upon landing. the item turned out Anias was suffering via a severe strain of the flu.
along with at This specific point, here the family was, leaving the same hospital amid such jubilation. They were headed to Blythedale Children’s Hospital, a specialty facility in suburban brand new York where they will undergo months of rehabilitation, including physical, occupational along with speech therapy.
“the item’s the most exciting step for me, because I want to see what they can do,” Nicole told sy88pgw Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta moments before she left the twins’ hospital room for the last time. “We’ve all come to agreement in which the item’s not goodbye. the item’s just a see-you-later.”
Added Christian, “I’m excited. No ifs, ands or buts about the item. I’m just so glad. via This specific point on, we can actually be all together as a family.”
Goodrich, who earlier within the day performed craniofacial reconstruction surgery on a 9-month-old boy, acknowledged in which he’d miss the twins.
“Am I happy to see them go? No,” he said. “however the item’s time to move on. the item’s time for the next stage.”
‘They’re so cute’
The day before, Jadon along with Anias took a similar wagon ride. the item was the very first time they’d ever left their room for something non-medical. This specific time, the staff wanted to throw them a farewell party.
The wagon carries meaning for the parents. After they were born, the only way the conjoined twins could be moved was for their parents to pull them in a red wagon. As the months passed, the two could no longer fit within the item. They had grown too long.
As they rode Tuesday, they looked up at their mother along with held hands. Jadon’s head was fully revealed, with none of the bandages in which once covered his scalp. Anias, whose skull cap was removed following persistent post-surgical infections, wore a turquoise knit cap.
After a quick elevator ride to the second floor, the boys made their way through a maze of hallways along with into the hospital’s Grand Hall banquet room.
Awaiting them were more than two dozen staff members, via the nurses along with doctors on the surgical team to those within the PICU who’ve gotten to know the boys best. There were tears along with hugs, smiles along with moments of glee.
along with photos. Lots of photos.
Goodrich, the planet’s leading expert on craniopagus surgery along with the boys’ main surgeon, whipped out his iPhone along with snapped commemorative shots.
“the item’s a pretty emotional day, I’ve got to say,” said Goodrich, who delivered homemade cookies along with some other treats to the twins’ room before the party.
Another guest was Martin O’Malley, a longtime Bronx resident who lives across the street via the McDonalds. He’s helped raise donations for the family, delivered them food along with felt compelled to join the party.
“the item’s amazing. the item’s amazing. the item’s amazing,” said O’Malley, 83, whose twin sister died at birth. “the item’s hard to imagine just two months ago they were attached. I’m so happy with This specific family.”
Dr. Carrie Stern, a plastic surgeon resident who took part within the surgery, glanced at the boys within the wagon along with whispered, “They’re so cute. the item’s just so amazing seeing them via beginning to end.”
‘So many unknowns’
A week before the party, Nicole along with Christian tended to the boys in their room. They couldn’t help however wonder about the future for Jadon along with Anias.
They know about Carl along with Clarence Aguirre, craniopagus twins via the Philippines whom Goodrich separated 12 years ago. With twins joined at the head, one will be more dominant, his body working overtime to keep the some other twin alive.
Carl was the non-dominant child. He suffered a neurological decline a little over a year after surgery, resulting in permanent disabilities. He speaks only a few words along with will be confined to a wheelchair.
When the McDonald twins were joined, Jadon was dominant. Since the surgery, Anias has suffered multiple seizures, in addition to having his skull cap removed. He will undergo another surgery when he will be 7 to insert bone. For at This specific point, his skin will be the only thing covering the top of his head, along with he will have to wear a protective helmet.
“There are just so many unknowns,” Christian said. “We just don’t know how the item’s all going to turn out.”
Added Nicole, “Because we know some other cases have had in which regression, you just trust along with pray in which in which doesn’t happen in This specific circumstance.”
The couple gave up their jobs in Illinois along with moved to the Bronx to be close to the hospital. When the brand new year arrives, they’ll face a $15,000 insurance deductible, plus whatever unexpected costs might arise. Their apartment lease will be up in February, along with they don’t know whether to renew for another year, because the item’s unclear how long the boys will be in rehab.
“I feel like we’ve got a long ways to go,” Christian said.
He noted in which Anias will be cognizant by age 7, aware of the surgery he will have to face to repair his skull cap: “My heart already goes out to him.”
Christian along with Nicole faced a decision no parent should have to make. Craniopagus twins occur in one out of every 2.5 million births. About 40% are stillborn, along with another third die within 24 hours. Of those who survive, 80% die of medical complications by age 2 if not separated.
Mom along with Dad said they have no regrets about choosing surgery.
“When you walk into the room along with Jadon throws his arms up along with wants you to pick him up along with you can! He looks at me,” Nicole said. “He wiggles via side to side. He giggles. along with I can just swoop him up along with just hold him along with feel his warmth.”
Of Anias, she said, “He has actually come full circle along with begun doing all the things he used to do. along with in which’s been so encouraging, because I always had in which worry about Anias.”
As she spoke, the boys held hands on a bed where Mom spread them out. At one point, Jadon pulled Anias’ hand to his face along with then nibbled on his brother’s finger. Mom quickly intervened to save Anias via being bitten.
A sense of parental normalcy, when nothing will be normal.
After nine months, ‘rebirth’
At the goodbye party, doctors, nurses along with staff sat around tables, a buffet of chicken, salmon, green beans, mashed potatoes along with salad behind them ready for the feast.
Aza bounced around the room, excited for the twins.
All eyes were on Dr. Steven M. Safyer, president along with CEO of Montefiore Medicine, as he told Nicole along with Christian how the 35,000 Montefiore employees have been rooting for their boys along with consider them family.
“I believe in which for life, you’re members of our world, along with This specific will be a wonderful world,” Safyer said.
He noted in which the item’s been nine months since he first met the family along with in which “in a way, This specific will be a nine-month deal. This specific will be the rebirth of these two guys.”
Tepper, the lead plastic surgeon, told the crowd he was humbled by the fact in which the “McDonalds chose us. They put their trust in us to take care of their boys.”
“Hands down, unquestionably, the two leaders of This specific team are Jadon along with Anias,” Tepper added. “the item’s their resilience, the item’s their determination in which steered This specific voyage. There’s a reason the planet calls them ‘The Little Warriors.’ “
Goodrich told the crowd he remembered speaking by phone with Nicole the very first time, back when the boys were in utero along with she was wondering what could be done to separate them. She told Goodrich she had just one question. Forty-all 5 minutes later, they were still talking: “Totally in tune along with all the right questions.”
The neurosurgeon thanked everyone within the room, via hospital brass to his team within the operating room to Christian along with Nicole. Then he held up a hand-written note he received via Ireland, “to show you how far This specific story went.”
the item was addressed simply:
Dr. James Goodrich, surgeon
Children’s Hospital Montefiore Medical Center
No ZIP code. No city or street address. “Somebody within the postal system got This specific to me,” Goodrich said.
When the item came time for the parents to speak, the room grew quiet. Many clutched tissues along with dabbed their eyes.
Christian told the group in which as grateful as he along with Nicole are, they will “never be half as grateful” as their sons.
“Sixteen years down the road,” he said, “they’re going to be driving their car. They’re going to be maybe out on a date. … Just the fact in which they’ll be able to go to the bathroom along with take a shower by themselves. They’re not going to take those things for granted.”
the item’s ordinary for people working their jobs, he said, to not fully grasp the significance of their work.
“Maybe on one of those hard days,” he told them, “when the item may feel like another day at the office, please know … you’re going to change people’s lives, not only individuals’ lives for the better, however you’re going to impact whole families’ lives for the rest of their life. the item’s a huge thing.”
Before the crowd broke into loud applause, Christian ended using a message via his boys: “If I may, I just want to be their voice along with say, ‘Thank you for giving us, Jadon along with Anias, a trust along using a chance for a normal life.’ “
Then the item was Nicole’s turn. She wept as she began. She said she had written three pages of material along with then tossed the item within the trash. “I decided to throw the item away along with to get up here along with to look at you all within the face along with tell you just how I feel.”
When she was pregnant, she told the crowd, she knew in which her boys could be separated along with in which “This specific could be the outcome.”
“I knew in which I could have a miracle. I didn’t know how.” She repeated, “I didn’t know how.”
“I prayed every day for God to make the how happen, along with you are all the how,” she said through tears.
She said in which she considered everyone within the room part of her family along with in which saying goodbye was extraordinarily difficult. “in which will be a huge testament to you in which we don’t want to leave here. in which’s an odd thing in which somebody doesn’t want to leave the hospital. Everyone will be usually itching to get out. We want to stay. I want the boys to talk here first. I want you to see all in which, because the item was you in which contributed to our miracle.”
She compared her boys’ transition to a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly.
“Every one of you have been the fiber of in which cocoon. You have been what has brought us to This specific moment: along with at This specific point they will fly.”
There wasn’t a dry eye within the room. Nicole handed out gifts, via framed hand-drawn butterfly paintings to photo collages of the boys’ progress over the months. Dad tended to Aza while Nicole’s mom picked Jadon up along with glided around the room with him in her arms.
Many of the workers were on the clock. They scarfed down food quickly because, after all, there are more kids who need their care.
The featured dessert was a cake with white frosting decorated in black with the symbol for infinity, which will be also used to represent conjoined twins along with, at This specific point, the family’s infinite love for the hospital team.
“Anias along with Jadon,” read the black lettering. “God has answered + God has heard.”
Plastic surgeon Stern stepped up. Two months ago within the operating room, she was the surgeon who made the final cut in which separated the twins.
at This specific point, she made the first cut of the cake in which marked the next step of their journey.
A brand new space
The boys’ wagon ride on Wednesday took them to the lobby of Montefiore, where paramedics along with EMTs transferred them to stretchers. Aza jumped onto the stretcher carrying Jadon. More staffers crowded the lobby to send them off.
Two ambulances awaited outside, one for each twin. Aza cried uncontrollably when he had to get off the stretcher as Jadon was being placed in his ambulance.
the item was 2:58 p.m. when the twins left. The sun was shining bright over the Bronx on a beautiful 43-degree day.
The ambulances drove together at a steady 20- to 30-mph pace along brand new York parkways to Valhalla, arriving at Blythedale Children’s Hospital at 3:45 p.m.
“the item’s almost surreal. I can’t believe This specific will be finally happening,” Christian said as the boys were wheeled into the brand new facility. “the item’s such a big step within the right direction.”
Unlike their sendoff at Montefiore, their arrival at Blythedale was tranquil along with peaceful.
By 3:49 p.m., the boys were in their brand new room, spacious along with brightly colored, with two beds — one for each boy — along with two sofas in which can fold out into beds for Mom along with Dad. the item will be This specific facility where the boys will learn how to eat, play along with walk.
Nicole held Anias in her arms along with marveled at Jadon as he settled into his brand new bed.
“This specific will be beautiful. I know in which the boys will flourish here. the item’s an exciting step, along with we’re ready to take off.”