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Conjoined twins’ separation surgery goes fine

Alex and Angel Mendoza before surgery

Alex and Angel Mendoza before surgery

PHOENIX – Although surgeons told Ashley Frank they had successfully separated her twin baby boys, she still couldn’t believe her eyes the first time she saw them.

“It wasn’t real. You can’t even tell they were ever together really,” Frank said. “I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Five-month-old conjoined twins Alex and Angel Mendoza were resting in separate beds Friday at Phoenix Children’s Hospital after 18 hours of surgery.

The twins were born in August at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix and were joined from just below their sternums all the way down through their pelvises.

Frank, of Kingman, and the boys’ dad, Johnny Mendoza, said they felt extreme relief and happiness that the babies survived the procedure.

Frank said she was looking forward to watching them no longer attached.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how they do being separated now because they’re so used to being together and having somebody to slap in the face,” Frank said with a laugh.

A team of doctors and nurses began operating on the twins Thursday and the surgery lasted into early Friday as surgeons reconstructed tissue in the abdomen and pelvis area where the babies had been joined.

Pediatric surgeon Stuart Lacey said the babies’ shared liver was the most worrisome obstacle to their ability to survive.

“There are ways that the liver could be joined that would’ve made them inseparable,” Lacey said.

Lacey said surgeons also had to determine if either baby was carrying out bodily functions for both because of a shared blood supply.

He credited radiologists’ intense study of 3-D images of the boys. The imaging demonstrated for surgeons that each baby could carry his own weight.

Doctors said the twins still have a long road ahead of recovery and rehabilitation. More reconstructive surgeries were expected.

Lacey said it was too early to predict how highly functional the babies would be in the next few years.

“They have very much normal bodies and abilities from the chest up. They are very alert, obviously, very smart little boys with wonderful little personalities. In the very most important ways, they’re going to be fine,” Lacey said.

Frank, who is in her early 20s, hopes that her sons will get to play ball like any other child.

She also has two daughters, ages 1 and 2.


Slide show of birth

To see a slide show of the boys’ birth, go to www.azcentral.com/photo/News/Breaking

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