Joined twins successfully separated

Filipino boys are stable but coming days crucial

August 06, 2004|By Deborah S. Morris | Deborah S. Morris,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - For the first time in their lives, 2-year-old twins Carl and Clarence Aguirre, born joined at the tops of their heads, slept in separate beds yesterday.

The twins' mother, Arlene Aguirre, was asleep in a private waiting room Wednesday night when David Staffenberg, chief of pediatric plastic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, knelt to deliver the news that the separation had been successful.

"She smiled. It was a moment we had all been planning for so long," he added, his voice filling with emotion.

Doctors likened the 18-hour, fourth and final separation surgery to driving while knowing that they couldn't go back if they made a wrong turn. They reassessed whether to proceed every 15 minutes, finally separating the boys during hour 13.

The next 72 hours are critical, they said. Doctors will be on the lookout for infections and leakage of spinal cord fluid. Hospital officials, who have described the boys as "strong and stable," said they probably would keep the twins sedated through the weekend to prevent them from moving too much.

Doctors said that it will take time to fully assess how well the boys have come through and that the goal from the beginning remains the same.

"We want to go beyond both twins living, but trying to get two kids who are as close to normal as possible," said pediatric neurosurgeon James Goodrich.

Arlene Aguirre, a registered nurse who accompanied her sons from the Philippines, where they were born, to Montefiore in September, did not attend the news conference. Hospital officials said she expects to address reporters Monday.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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