October 22, 2017
Back in June, a team of 30 surgeons at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia successfully separated twin girls conjoined at the top of the skull, a rare condition that occurs in about 10-20 babies for every million births in the United States.
The 11-hour procedure marked CHOP's first separation of a craniopagus pair, culminating months of preparation after Abbey and Erin Delaney were born in Philadelphia in July 2016. For parents Heather and Riley, the operation gave them the hope they needed to one day raise two happy, healthy daughters back home in North Carolina.
"Although this has been a long journey, with many ups and downs, Riley and I are thrilled to see how well the girls are doing today," Heather said in a statement on Sunday. "We are so grateful for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia team, and for the support and encouragement that our families, our friends and the community have given us during this long journey."
Separating conjoined twins is just one of CHOP's many surgical specialties. The hospital's 24 operations represent the most in the Western Hemisphere, yet Abbey and Erin's story stands out as a delicate marvel.
In the video below, CHOP gives us an inside look at the hospital's historic surgery and the timeline of Heather and Riley's experience as young parents.
"Nearly five months after separation, we are happy to announce that both Erin and Abby Delaney are doing well as they continue to recover from this very complex surgery," said neurosurgeon Gregory Heuer, who co-led the operation alongside plastic and reconstructive surgeon Jesse Taylor.
The twins have already had several follow-up surgeries and will continue to undergo reconstructive procedures in the coming years—to replace the missing bone areas on their heads, normalize their hairlines and minimize scarring. Born prematurely and with odds stacked against them, Abbey and Erin are now on pace to return home before the end of 2017.
"The girls are inspiring," Heather said. "As their parents, it is very neat for Riley and me to have a front row seat to this and watch them overcome these incredible obstacles. We cannot wait to see what their future holds!"
"The ability to plan and carry out this type of surgery is a testament to the skill and expertise available here at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia," added N. Scott Adzick, CHOP's Surgeon-in-Chief. "I'm extremely proud of Dr. Heuer, Dr. Taylor and the entire CHOP team, and I'm thrilled that Erin and Abby have a promising future because their courageous parents entrusted their daughters to our care."