Conjoined twins separated in surgery at Wolfson Children's Hospital

Charlie Patton
Photo from surgery day at Wolfson Children's Hospital.

Conjoined twin boys Carter and Conner Mirabal were successfully separated by a 17-member surgical team at Wolfson Children's Hospital on Thursday.

"What we're feeling is sheer excitedness," the twins' mother, Michelle Brantley, said Monday during an interview. "Now that they are separated, we're just happy."

The surgery began at 7:11 a.m. Thursday. The boys were separated at 3:34 p.m. but surgery continued on both. Conner's surgery ended at 6:29 p.m. and he was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at 6:52 p.m. Carter's surgery ended at 6:47 p.m. and he was transferred to the intensive care unit at 7:14 p.m.

The surgical team led by pediatric surgeons Nicholas D. Poulos and Daniel K. Robie consisted of 16 physicians with Nemour's Children's Speciality Care in Jacksonville. They were joined by Stephen P. Dunn, a specialist in solid organ transplants with Nemours duPont Children's Specialty Care in Wilmington, Del., who was present to assist with the separation of the twins' fused livers.

Both twins appeared to be doing well Monday, their father, Bryan Marabal, said.

"They are finally laying on their backs for the first time," he said. "They finally look comfortable."

Poulos said the surgeons would have preferred to wait longer before separating the twins. But issues with their health, particularly with Carter, the smaller twin, led to the decision to do the surgery last week.

"Connor was draining Carter," their mother said.

Poulos said "the biggest challenge" during the surgery was separating the fused livers. Poulos said he's optimistic about the future though many challenges and more surgical procedures lie ahead.

"I think they are doing quite well under the circumstances," said Poulos, who was involved in the successful separation of conjoined twin girls in Chicago in 1996. "The whole thing is pretty challenging. We're in the early phase."

Born by Caesarean section at UF Health Jacksonville on Dec. 12, the twins underwent their first surgery Dec. 13 to treat a potentially life-threatening condition called gastroschisis. During a press conference in January, Robie said the twins' abdominal wall was like wet tissue paper. So surgeons covered the area with a temporary mesh patch.

On Jan. 5, a second surgery was performed in which separate small intestines were created for each twin and the mesh patch was removed.

Bryan Marabal had high praise for the care provided by Nemours physicians and the Wolfson medical team.

"These people are awesome," he said. "Awesome is my word of the day."

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413