An 11-hour operation has separated conjoined sisters who were born with their arms around one another. Sarabeth and Amelia Irwin, who were born in June 2019, underwent the surgery Aug. 5 in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports. The girls are home now, crawling and adjusting to their independence. "Other than taking our word for it, you would almost never know that they were conjoined," said their father, Phil. The surgery followed months of planning and involved more than two dozen medical personnel, including a team of surgeons for each twin. The girls were joined at the chest and abdomen, which complicated their separation because of the proximity of the heart and other organs. "For everyone in the room, it was a very emotional and extraordinary moment when the last incision was made to separate these girls from one to two," a surgeon said, per Michigan Medicine.
The girls share a small sternum bone that had to be divided. Their livers were separate but fused. Breathing was a concern. "We really didn't know how well their chest wall would work, but it worked actually beautifully," one of the surgeons said. The agonizing wait for their parents, who knew the chances of success were small, was over. "They're doing great," said their mother, Alyson. Sarabeth and Amelia now have matching scars, which may or may not fade. They might need more operations later, but doctors aren't concerned about that. The surgeon said the girls had an advantage through the process: "They got the perfect parents for being conjoined twins," he said. "Not only because of their commitment, love and support, but because they're just very innovative and optimistic people. I think that really made a big difference." (Read more conjoined twins stories.)