Separated twins remain in critical condition

By Tim Talley
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 1-09

Pediatric surgeons said during late January that formerly conjoined twin girls remain in critical condition four days after successful separation surgery and that their prognosis is guarded.

“We got one part done. Now we have to get them better,” said Dr. David Tuggle of the Children’s Hospital at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.

“There’s a lot of things that can give us trouble in the short term. There’s a lot of things that can give us trouble in the months ahead. We’re not out of the woods yet,” Tuggle said.

Physicians said the twins will need additional surgery to rebuild their breast plate, chest and abdomen, possibly within a year. But they said there is no reason that the girls, Preslee Faith Wells and Kylee Hope Wells, should not grow up to live normal lives.

Their mother, 20-year-old Stevie Stewart of Calumet, was hopeful they will be home soon. The girls’ father, Kyle Wells, 21, of Calumet, an electrician in Edmond, was at work and could not attend a news conference at the hospital.

“I’m ready to get them home, watch them grow up,” said Stewart, who became emotional and wept softly while discussing her daughters. “Everybody is really excited for them to get home.”


Tuggle was also part of the team of physicians that separated a pair of conjoined twins born in 1986 in Oklahoma. Those twins, Faith and Hope Cox, now are healthy young women.

Preslee and Kylee had been joined at the chest since their birth on Oct. 25. They were separated during a 6-hour procedure that Tuggle said went smoothly.

“We really didn’t have any major surprises,” he said.

The process of separating the girls, believed to be the first known American Indian conjoined twins, involved splitting the girls’ livers and a tissue bridge that connected them. Doctors have said the twins have a good chance of survival because they had separate hearts and did not share major blood vessels.

But Tuggle said the girls, who are being cared for in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, are coping with the aftermath of the surgery and the consequences of having separate bodies.

Tuggle said that once separated, their bodies were not quite big enough for all of their organs and that it may take one or two months for the twins’ bodies to adjust.

“Closing the wound became tricky,” Tuggle said. “The effects of that pressure is a lot of what we’re dealing with right now.” In addition, Kylee has a lung condition that complicates her recovery.

Tuggle said the girls are sedated and remain on a high ventilation setting but that he is not displeased with their progress.

“They’ve got to do the healing for themselves,” he said.

Stewart said she has not been able to hold her daughters yet but has seen them since the surgery.

“I told them that I loved them, that I was glad they were OK,” she said.

Stewart said it was unusual to see her daughters in two separate beds after being conjoined for the first few weeks of their lives.

“It was really nice at the same time. I’m getting used to it,” she said.