Ten month old twin girls Knatalyne Hope Mata and Adeline Faith Mata were born sharing almost their entire chest and abdominal area. Lead surgeon Dr. Darrell Cass reported that the twins shared a chest wall, lungs, and part of their heart lining, as well as their diaphragm, liver, colon, intestines and pelvic area.

The girls’ parents and 5-year-old brother discovered they were joined during a Jan. 2014 ultrasound. The twins were born in April 2014, each weighing 3 pounds, 7 ounces. While waiting for surgery, they stayed in the neonatal unit of the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

The recent 26-hour surgery was successful. “The surgery was not without its challenges, with the girls sharing several organ systems, but we’re very pleased with how they’re doing,” Cass said. “We’re very optimistic they can both have a really great outcome.”

The surgical team of eight nurses, six anesthesiologists, and 12 surgeons did have some tense moments. After about five hours on the operating table, Adeline’s blood pressure dropped and the team had to administer CPR. The little girl recovered after a few minutes.

“It seemed forever at the time,” Cass said.

The girls now weigh more than 20 pounds each and are currently stable, but will need intensive care for a couple of months and more surgery in the future.

The twins’ parents, John and Elysse Mata, moved from Lubbock to Houston last year so they could be with their children.

Elysse said she and John are “so grateful to all of the surgeons and everyone who cared for our daughters and gave them the incredible chance to live separate lives. We know how much planning and time went into this surgery and we are so blessed to be at a place like Texas Children’s where we have access to the surgeons and caretakers that made this dream a reality.”

“Seeing the girls wheeled out of the operating room as separate patients, on separate gurneys, the ramifications for them to live private lives was even more poignant and powerful than I expected,” said Cass. “It literally brought tears to my eyes.”

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.