Twins' father returns to familiar cemetery Baby Amy buried, sister still lives

August 25, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

Kenneth Lakeberg and his family had gathered four times in the last six years at a small Indiana cemetery to grieve for a loved one.

His grandparents, an uncle and his mother are all buried in Roselawn Cemetery, a hilly spot on Indiana Highway 10 in Roselawn where the grass grows tall between the two narrow gravel paths that circle the grounds and serve as a road.

When his mother died, Mr. Lakeberg says, he never thought he'd feel that much pain again.

Yesterday, he had to visit the cemetery once more, this time to bury his daughter.

Mr. Lakeberg and about 65 friends and relatives gathered at the cemetery to lay to rest a child whose life had been filled with unrest and marked by debate almost from the start.

Amy Lakeberg died Friday, as expected, during surgery at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where doctors worked for 5 1/2 hours to separate her from her conjoined twin sister, Angela, with whom she shared a heart and a liver.

Yesterday, as her sister was being buried, Angela was listed in critical but stable condition. Reitha Lakeberg, the twins' mother, did not attend the funeral but remained in Philadelphia with Angela as the child clung to life.

The first 72 hours after the surgery were considered a critical period for Angela. A hospital spokeswoman said the next step is to begin weaning Angela from the intravenous equipment through which she is fed, switching to intestinal feeding so she can become accustomed to digesting food.

Doctors also will begin weaning the infant from the ventilator that helps her breathe, said the spokeswoman, because Angela won't be able to feed regularly until she breathes freely.

Almost from the moment of the twins' birth June 29, in Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., doctors knew that one girl would have to die if the other was to have any chance to live. Doctors believed they could split the girls' liver, but their heart, which was abnormal and needed to be reconstructed, could not be shared.

Though Loyola doctors advised against surgery to separate the twins, saying there was less than a 1 percent chance that even one would survive, the Lakebergs opted for the risky and costly surgery.

The twins were flown early last week to Philadelphia, where doctors at Children's Hospital have performed several separations of conjoined twins.

On Friday, the infants' separation left the family to celebrate and mourn at the same time.

"[Amy] will never be gone," said Georgia Welsh, Amy's aunt, before funeral services began yesterday. "As long as there's family she'll always be there . . . Angela has part of Amy, too."

Family and friends gathered for an 11 a.m. service at the Stilinovich & Wiatrolik Funeral Home in Merrillville, Ind., where pink and white flower arrangements surrounded the small, white coffin. The coffin, as well as funeral and cemetery services, were donated.

Although the family initially had said funeral services would be private, they invited selected reporters and photographers inside the funeral home for the 25-minute gathering, turning away others.

Following the service, Ms. Welsh, who is Reitha Lakeberg's sister, and Kathy Lakeberg, Kenneth's sister, carried the coffin outside and placed it on the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car that served as a hearse.

The car, with a red flashing light on top, led a procession to the cemetery, where family members circled the gravesite where Kenneth Lakeberg's mother is buried.

Amy Lakeberg was buried at the same gravesite.

"Hers was a short life, but it was a full life," said the Rev. Clifford B.D. Kentel at the graveside service. "She has done a great work in a very short time."

Kenneth Lakeberg said he is returning to Philadelphia with his 5-year-old daughter, Shervon, and is considering a permanent move there.

"We'll always have Amy," he said, "but I'm going home to Angela."

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