Are you attached to a brother or sister? They were!
For a set of Texas twins, being joined at the hip is not just a cliche. That was basically the first 10 months of their life.
On Tuesday, Emily and Caitlin Copeland, who were born conjoined at the liver, celebrate their 18th birthday. They enjoyed the success of a separation surgery that has allowed them to lead normal lives. Now they are graduating as co-valedictorians from Lutheran High North in Houston. Valedictorians are the top students in each graduation class.
"I think for anyone it's exciting to get to 18," Caitlin said. "But in particular for us, I think it's just a really big blessing that we got to 18.''
Crystal Copeland, the twins' mother, nods. She will never forget the day she learned she was pregnant with conjoined twins. occurs once in every 200,000 live births. Between 40 percent and 60 percent are stillborn, and some 35 percent survive one day.
And in late 1996, surgery and imaging were not as advanced.
It was a Friday when Copeland first spoke to Dr. Kevin Lally, surgeon in chief at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. He promised to provide an honest assessment of the chances for survival.
The babies were kicking. Copeland had seen them in an ultrasound. To her, they were alive and well. That weekend, she said, was the hardest in her life.
On Monday, the Copelands got the best news they could have hoped for.
"They were joined at the liver, not at the heart, which would have been, you know, fatal," Copeland said. "He thought there were good opportunities for separation where they would both be able to live basically normal lives."
One twin was born with a blocked intestine. Surgery had to be conducted when they were just 2 days old. Doctors decided to wait 10 months for them to get bigger for the separation surgery.
Critical thinking challenge: What difference did it make that the girls were joined at the liver and not the heart?