Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata were born conjoined on April 11 and spent 10 months connected at the chest and abdomen—but on Tuesday at Texas Children's Hospital, the girls were successfully separated. After months of preparation, a team of more than 26 medical professionals from numerous specialties took 18 hours to separate the chest wall, lungs, diaphragm, liver, intestines, colon, pelvis, and lining of the heart, according to a press release. In total, Knatalye was in surgery for 23 hours, Adeline for 26, KHOU reports. Prior to the procedure, doctors put in tissue expanders designed to stretch their skin, among other preparations. "We've done everything from working with our radiology experts to build a 3D model of their organs, to conducting simulations of the actual separation surgery," says Dr. Darrell Cass, who calls the separation the first successful one for "thoraco-omphalo-ischiopagus twins with this particular configuration."
A YouCaring fundraising page for the girls explains that they were given just a 20% chance of survival when their parents learned about their condition at an ultrasound on Jan. 13, 2014; the girls were born early, at 31 weeks, weighing an estimated 3 pounds, 7 ounces each. "You can't have hope without faith, and you can't have faith without hope," mom Elysse told KHOU last year, explaining their names. "And if one baby would have gone, the other would, too. And so right away I knew you have hope and faith." Now she says, "We are so grateful to all the surgeons and everyone who cared for our daughters and gave them the incredible chance to live separate lives." A Facebook page for the girls has pictures of them separated; each will undergo future surgeries. (A woman who didn't know she was pregnant recently birthed a rare type of twins.)