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Life’s Little Miracles

Published by , on Apr 29, 2013

Given all the heartbreak surrounding the recent events in our nation, we cannot think of something better to share with you than a story filled with hope and joy. One week ago today, six-month-old conjoined twins, A’zhari and A’zhiah Jones from Franklin, Va., were surgically separated at Conjoined TwinsChildren’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR). Currently, the girls are in stable condition recovering in CHoR’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with help from the same nurses who have cared for them over the first six months of their lives.“We’re very optimistic that the twins will have a full and complete recovery,” said David Lanning, M.D., Ph.D., surgeon-in-chief at the CHoR. “At this point we don’t anticipate any future need for long term medications. I see the girls living full happy lives as individuals.”At 12 weeks gestation, Nachell Jones was surprised to learn that she was having twins, but shocked when a week later, through advanced sonography, she learned her twins were conjoined. In October, Jones gave birth through a planned C-section to 10-pound (combined weight), 17-inch twins, A’zhari and A’zhiah, joined at the chest and abdomen and sharing a liver and the pericardium, the double-walled sac containing the heart and the roots of the great vessels.During the second week of their lives, the girls became critically ill as a result of the shared liver causing one twin to receive much more blood circulation than the other. However, due to the condition of the twins, complete separation at that time would likely have ended tragically, so an innovative staged approach was chosen. The first stage of the phased separation began on October 25 when surgeons separated the conjoined liver and closed the girls’ abdomens.Support for the family extended beyond the medical community as several individuals and groups within VCU offered the twins their expertise. VCU’s Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising created dresses for the Jones twins. Additionally, VCU Department of Sculpture and Extended Media graduates and students worked to craft a cast model of the twins that plastic surgeons studied to ensure the appropriate size skin expanders were used to achieve closure after separation.In the months leading up to the final separation, the girls’ health and development were closely monitored by numerous pediatric specialties including cardiology, neonatal medicine, nephrology, gastroenterology, radiology, surgery and transplant surgery, nursing, and physical and occupational therapy. The care team of nearly 40 people carefully planned the step-by-step operating timetable, and even designated separate colors for the bandages and tubing that would belong to each child; A’zhari was given pink and A’zhiah blue.The 14-hour surgery was the first report of successful, phased-separation of twins conjoined at the abdomen and heart. It was also the second separation of conjoined twins at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU in the last 18 months. In November 2011, Lanning and a large team of specialists successfully separated 19-month-old conjoined twins, Maria and Teresa Tapia of the Dominican   Republic, in a complex 20-hour procedure.“The nurses are very caring and like my family,” said their mother, Nachell Jones. “They are very supportive of me and the girls. It’s like they are their own kids. It has been one hard journey. Some days it’s great and other days it’s hard. Today is one of the great days. They are my little miracles.”The support of the community, CHoR’s medical team and the numerous departments at VCU is living proof that when people come together, amazing things can happen.

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