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Conjoined Texas twins celebrate 18th birthday

HOUSTON (AP) - For a set of Texas twins, being joined at the hip is not just a cliche - that was basically the first 10 months of their life.

On Tuesday, Emily and Caitlin Copeland, who were born conjoined at the liver, are celebrating their 18th birthday by enjoying the success of a separation surgery that has allowed them to lead normal lives and graduate as co-valedictorians from Lutheran High North in Houston.

"I think for anyone it's exciting to get to 18, but in particular for us I think it's just a really big blessing that we got to 18, considering what could have happened," Caitlin said.

Formerly Conjoined Twins Celebrate 18th Birthday

Crystal Copeland, the twins' mother, nods. She will never forget the day she learned she was pregnant with conjoined twins, a phenomenon that occurs once in every 200,000 live births. Between 40 percent and 60 percent are stillborn, and some 35 percent survive one day.

And in late 1996, surgery and imaging were not as advanced.

"At the time, if you Googled conjoined twins all you got was circus acts and babies that died," Copeland said.

It was a Friday when Copeland first spoke to Dr. Kevin Lally, surgeon in chief at Hermann Memorial Children's Hospital in Houston. He promised to provide an honest assessment of the chances for survival.

The babies were kicking. Copeland had seen them in an ultrasound. To her, they were alive and well. That weekend, she said, was the hardest in her life.

On Monday, the Copelands got the best news they could have hoped for.

"They were joined at the liver, not at the heart, which would have been, you know, fatal," Copeland said. "He thought there were good opportunities for separation where they would both be able to live basically normal lives," she added.

The complications after the twins were born were worrisome. One was born with a blocked intestine, and surgery had to be conducted when they were just 2 days old. Lally wanted to separate them at that point, but when the surgery began doctors discovered they were not only conjoined at the liver but the organs were discharging through only one twin. So doctors decided to wait for them to get bigger for the separation surgery.

Meanwhile, Copeland watched Caitlin, bigger and chubbier than Emily, try to roll over on her sister, who would scream, arms flailing to the sides. Then Caitlin got on all fours and tried to crawl, but Emily was too heavy for her to drag.

Faced now with two smiling teenagers, rather than screaming toddlers who had to raise their shirts so he could inspect their scars, Lally smiles.

"You don't always see the long-term results of what we do, and it's nice when you get to see a good one," he said.


Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP

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meemeepit June 10 2014 at 4:00 AM

What a perfect story...thanks to all of those smart...Doctors...and those 2 lovely ladies..

wow what a NICE story...God Bless them ALL!

Flag Reply +58 rate up
HanSolo VII June 10 2014 at 6:37 AM

Excellent story !! I always love a happy ending. All the best to those beautiful young ladies !! I hope they both have happy lives !! And.....my hat is off to those amazing doctors as well. Thank goodness for their expertise and perserverence. Good luck to you all !!

Flag Reply +31 rate up
Anonymous June 10 2014 at 7:56 AM

Absolutely great story. The twins are drop dead gorgeous.

Flag Reply +26 rate up
3 replies
myliturside June 10 2014 at 4:22 AM

how beautifully they have grown. so blessed to have come through life so well.

Flag Reply +23 rate up
formerlyberlet98 June 10 2014 at 3:49 AM

And how many abortionists wanted them aborted?

Flag Reply +22 rate up
30 replies
lainma June 10 2014 at 6:19 AM

What a wonderful tribute to everyone involved and to the blessings of modern medicine...No matter what one's beliefs....this is a beautiful miracle....with two living proofs through one courageous Mom and one awesome doctor and his staff!!!

Flag Reply +21 rate up
gailmezidor June 10 2014 at 7:44 AM

They look exactly alike and are beautifulllllll. To God be the glory

Flag Reply +19 rate up
1 reply
vivianlwood gailmezidor June 10 2014 at 9:18 AM

Where was god when they became conjoined?

Flag Reply +7 rate up
19 replies
leejustus3 June 10 2014 at 6:48 AM

Happpy Birthday young ladies! May you have continued health and happiness!

Flag Reply +17 rate up
oujoou June 10 2014 at 4:16 AM

Wow. Beautiful girls. :) Valedictorian too. I stumbled on a story about real conjoined twins . . . the original Hilton sisters . . . who were a vaudeville act 100 years ago. They were beautiful and conjoined and lived to be 60+. The doctor here did great. Wow. MD's. They ARE good for something. lol. :) So . . . I don't recall the article mentioning where these smart girls are headed to next year for college. Surviving the operation when they were little . . .co-valedictorians . . . what are the odds? They deserve a big trip abroad. Just the two of them. Wow. Double your pleasure. :)

Flag Reply +8 rate up
2 replies
poll100 oujoou June 10 2014 at 8:58 AM

Vaudeville acts, it was a disguiting piece of human abuse and finally ended.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
4 replies
roseyoungstewart oujoou June 10 2014 at 3:00 PM

these girls are not the real valecitorians of their school you ought to read the entire article.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
jmorarie roseyoungstewart June 10 2014 at 6:16 PM

Did read the entire article and they are the co-valedictorians. Just not the "valecitorians" as you say

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Baines-Hunter June 10 2014 at 6:00 AM


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