Surgeons Practice on Cabbage Patch Dolls Before Separating Conjoined Twins

conjoined twins
Joshua & Jacob Spates prior to their separation. Photo credit: Lisa W Buser

Doctors at Memphis Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital have successfully separated seven-month-old conjoined twins in a surgery that has been rarely successful in the past.

Joshua and Jacob Spates, who were joined back-to-back and had separate hearts, heads and limbs, are doing well.  More than one hundred medical professionals were involved in the complicated surgery, all of whom practiced the tricky maneuver on Cabbage Patch dolls that had been sewn together, according to the Associated Press.

“Everyone laughed about the dolls … but by the time the day of the surgery came, you would have thought we’d been doing it a long time,” said Joel Saltzman, director of pediatric anesthesiology at the hospital.

There is other good news on conjoined twins as well this week:

> The oldest living pair of conjoined twins turn 50 this weekend, defying all odds.  George and Lori Schappell, who are joined at the head, are quite a pair.  George, who was born a girl and named Reba, decided he wanted to live life as a man fours years ago.  He has had a solid career in music, winning an LA Music Award for Best New Country Artist, and his sister Lori is a champion ten-pin bowler.  Learn more about their incredible lives together from a great story in the UK’s The Sun.

> Amanda Schulten, a single mother who recently gave birth to conjoined twin girls, has been writing about her experience on her blog Faith & Hope & Love.  Doctors told her to terminate the pregnancy because the girls, named Faith and Hope, had little chance of surviving, but she refused. In her first post after they were born, she wrote:

September 6th was a day miracles happened.:)
I gave birth to the 2 most beautiful conjoined twins.
I love everything about them …
I sit with them all day waiting patiently to soon one day get to hold them in my arms.
I cry tears of joy, that God made them so perfect. (at least in my eyes and anyone who has met them)

In an ABC News story, senior medical editor Dr. David Besser says the outlook for the twins, who are joined at the torso, and share a heart, two lungs and two kidneys, is “bleak.” Schulten refuses to give up hope, however, and was happy to celebrate their eight days of life yesterday on her blog.

Conjoined twins are very rare, occurring in 1 in every 200,000 live births.

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