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Conjoined twins preparing for separation at Texas Children's Hospital

HOUSTON – Texas conjoined twins are currently recovering from a tissue expansion surgery that included doctors placing a balloon in their chest and abdomen then periodically injecting the balloon to stretch their skin. The goal of this procedure is to generate enough growth to wrap their individual bodies and prepare them to live separately.

The Texas Children's Hospital is on a sensitive timeline as the twins recover from the procedure and prepare for the life-altering surgery.

It might be a dream come true to some parents when they can hold all their babies at once, but Elysse Mata dreams of the day she can care for Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith separately.

"I tell them, ‘when we go home and you're separate, you better be ready for it because I'm going to squeeze you and hug you and never let you go,'" Mata said.

These twin girls, born in April, have never left the hospital. Instead, they've been waiting for their tiny organs to strengthen enough to be separated. The separation surgery could take 36 hours or more.

"Pretty much we're going to go from top down working from the heart, to the chest, down to the bowels, and the kidneys, and bladder to the pelvis and then covering everything up,"  said Chief of Pediatric Plastic Surgery, Dr. Larry Hollier. "So once we both feel that there's enough skin generated we'll proceed with the surgery."

The 8-month-olds are growing up fast, forcing doctors to juggle letting them recover from one surgery with putting them into another. Since birth, they've grown from three pounds each to about 32 pounds together with the expansion injections.

"What we've seen since the day of birth is that they actually have not become more dependent on each other or one baby suffering and the other ones thriving," said Dr. Ed Buchanan. "They've actually both gone on to thrive very well."

The girls share a chest wall, lungs, diaphragm, liver, intestines and pelvis, all of which the doctors say can be separated, which makes them a favorable duo for such a surgery.

Or, their mother might say it's a miracle in the making.

"They're just stuck together by skin pretty much, and a few tissues and organs are stuck together too. But other than that, they're just our little miracle babies," Mata said.

Doctors anticipate the girls could be recovered and ready for surgery in the next four weeks.

Mata says she can't hold the babies now that they're larger from the expansion balloons. She says she still tries wrapping her arms around them for motherly support.

Doctors think a definite date for the operation will be chosen within the next month. The decision will involve a team of multidisciplinary specialists in pediatric surgery, urology, plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, cardiovascular surgery and pediatric gynecology.