Conjoined twin brothers Anias and Jadon McDonald, who've been attached at the head for their entire 13 months of life, were successfully separated at NYC's Montefiore Medical Center during a 16-hour-plus surgery that went into Friday morning, mom Nicole McDonald tells the New York Daily News. "Well, we did it," were the words of operating surgeon Dr. James Goodrich after the complicated procedure, per a Friday Facebook post by Nicole. Goodrich told her it was one of the hardest surgeries he's ever done (he even considered halting it at one point), and she concedes the babies are "definitely not out of the woods." She notes Anias "really got rocked" during the operation, while Jadon was a "rock star [who] … hardly batted an eye."
The boys were "exceedingly rare" craniopagus twins fused at the head, CNN notes, and Nicole writes "the boys ended up sharing a 5 x 7 cm area of brain tissue with no definite plane for dissection." If twins in this situation aren't separated (even though the separation itself could cause serious mental or physical disabilities), 80% of them die by the age of 2, studies have shown. "This is so hard," Nicole tells CNN. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it." Nicole and husband Christian even sometimes found themselves wishing they could simply keep the boys—"they are so funny and so happy"—the way they were. In the wake of the surgery, "I should feel so happy," Nicole writes. "TWO SEPARATE BABIES!!!...and yet I ache with the uncertainty of the future." Follow the dramatic procedure as it took place, hour by hour, at CNN.