They adopt twins that no family wants. Hours later, doctors discover the shocking truth. A formerly conjoined twin who lost her sister to a rare condition is using social media to raise awareness. That would depend very much on the specific circumstances.
If there was a good chance that both would survive if left as they were, and that any attempt to separate them would carry a risk that one or both would die, that it would be an unethical to separate them.
Conjoined twins occur once every 200,000 live births. According to the University of Minnesota, about 70% of conjoined twins are female. Conjoined twins are identical. They’re the same sex. Scientists believe that conjoined twins develop from a single fertilized egg that fails to separate completely as it divides. On the other hand, there have been cases where leaving them conjoined would lead to one dying followed by the other, and where separation would give at least one a much better chance of survival.
In those cases, I would consider it ethical to do the surgery. Conjoined twins, as you know, happen when a single embryo starts to split into two identical twins and for whatever reason, doesn’t split all the way. They can be joined in simple ways or complex ways. Other conjoined twins are not so lucky. They can share a pelvis, internal organs, even a brain, making separation impossible without killing one or both. Think about the henzels.
Essentially two heads and one body. Everything from the rib cage down is shared. There’s no way to separate them. Given that they have a pretty good quality of life together, why would their parents even pursue it? Their photo was circulated on social media as they are adopted and no one wants to join the twins. Now we can figure the real suffering that this family went through. Gabrielle Gabby Garcia opened up about her unique life experience. Karen Swarns Gabby’s mom found out she was pregnant with conjoined twins twelve weeks into her pregnancy.
She wasn’t familiar with the condition. A specialist recommended that Karen’s mom get a late term abortion. Karen’s mom refused. As she met with more medical professionals, she held to her position. It took her months before finding a doctor willing to work with her twins. Gabby and Michaela were born at 36 weeks. The girls were born attached at the hip. They shared a pair of legs and kidneys, a bladder and intestines.
Gabby and Michaela were conjoined for nine months before undergoing surgery to separate them. The sisters didn’t suffer further complications until they were 13 years old when both fell ill. While Gabby recovered, Michaela died. As she worked through the devastating loss of her twins, Gabby became determined to share their story. Now she’s using TikTok to do just that. Karen Swarns was twelve weeks into her pregnancy when she learned she was pregnant with conjoined twins.
The new mom didn’t know what that meant at first. When she went to a specialist, they recommended a late term abortion. I absolutely refused, Karen told East Idaho News. I couldn’t find anyone to take care of me for months after that. I went without medical care for a few months until I could find someone that would help me and not want me to abort.
Karen welcomed twin girls at 36 and a half weeks, Gabrielle and Michaela were born attached at the hip. The baby girls shared a pair of legs and kidneys, a bladder and intestines. They remained conjoined for around eight months before undergoing surgery. The separation surgery was supposed to take 24 hours. It went better than expected, however, and took only 12 hours.
During the surgery, the girls lost their stomach walls, which were replaced with surgical mesh. Karen was told the girls should recover without issue. Sadly, that changed in 2011. Mikayla was hospitalized with an infection and Gabby wasn’t too far behind. Both girls had to have surgery due to the infection of the surgical mesh. You see a lot of times how dangerous surgical mesh can be because it’s kind of like a foreign object in the body and sometimes our bodies rejected, Gabby said. Gabby recovered from the infection without issue.
Mikaela’s infection had already reached her bloodstream. However, she developed a fungal infection and went septic. Michaela died on November 5, 2011. It was just one day after Gabby was discharged from the hospital. The twins were 13. I sit here and I wonder until I’m going crazy all the what ifs, Gabby said. They say that time really is supposed to make everything better and make it easier, but some days I feel like it hurts more than the first day that it happened. We had an incredible hard time dealing with it. She didn’t talk much about her loss until a few months ago, when she decided to make a change.
Gabby was ready to talk about Mikaela and share their story. She started making videos about it on TikTok. When she started, she had just 80 followers. People are so curious, I think, mostly because our condition is so rare, Gabby said. I have people reaching out to me that deal with similar things that I go through health wise. I have people reaching out to me who have also lost their twin sister. It opened a lot of doors for me to talk to a lot of different kinds of people.
Her following began growing pretty quickly. Gabby’s first video about being a conjoined twin has over 9 million views to date. She’s gotten the opportunity to open up about the heartbreak of losing Michaela. She’s also gotten to answer some of the questions that people might be too scared to ask her face to face. Some she’s fielded, including which sister got the belly button, how they decided on what shoes to wear and whether or not she can have kids. She’s enjoying the opportunity to educate people on the unique situation. Gabby is now facing another difficult battle. She was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor that’s unrelated to being a conjoined twin.
Still, she’s trying to live life to the fullest in Mikayla’s memory. Overnight, she gained almost 1000 new followers from people interested to hear about her experiences of being a conjoined twin. Now 230,000 people follow her daily content, with millions viewing her very personal clips. Aspiring nurse Gabby, who lives with her family in Idaho Falls, has said that sharing her tragic past has helped her deal with the suffering caused by her sister’s death.
The term Siamese twins originated with Ng and Chang Bunker, a set of conjoined twins who were born in Siam, now Thailand, in 1811. They lived to age 63 and appeared in traveling exhibitions. Chang and Ng both married and fathered a total of 21 children between them. In 1955, neurosurgeon Dr. Harold Boris at Mercy Hospital in Chicago performed the first successful procedure separating conjoined twins.
The overall survival rate is quite low. Though more male twins are likely to be conjoined, they are also more likely to be either stillborn or die within the first 24 hours of birth. Female conjoined twins seem to be much harder and is also the case in single births, so conjoined girls are three times more likely to survive.
Therefore, you may mistakenly think that conjoined twins are always girls. There’s a saying that I always go by, it’ll all be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end, Gabby said. I always live by that. I’m like, this is just a mountain you’re going over right now. It’s going to be okay. Karen is proud that Gabby has found a way to speak out on her experience and honor her sister. I like hearing her be able to tell the story that she wanted to tell so much with her sister, she said.
But it does bring back a lot of memories when it comes to conjoined twins. How long does it take to separate them? Depends on how extensively they’re connected. If it’s just a minor connection, maybe an hour or two.
In a case where the connection is way more difficult to deal with, it could take 24 continuous hours on the table, with doctors working in shifts around the clock to make it happen. Nobody can say exactly how long a conjoined twin separation surgery will take unless they examine the twins and view all the X rays and MRI results and Cat scans to see all the blood work and talk with all the experts.