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Conjoined twin girls, age 2, undergoing rare separation surgery

November 1, 2011 | 11:57 am

Conjoined twins Angelina and Angelica Sabuco

A nine-hour surgery is scheduled Tuesday for 2-year-old sisters, a rare and tricky medical procedure that would finally allow the little girls to roam free without the other tagging along.

Angelica and Angelina Sabuco are conjoined twins who are attached at the chest and abdomen.  

The girls have separate hearts but their livers are connected, making the scheduled surgery at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford a complex procedure, the hospital reported.

"Our expectation is we will have two healthy girls at the end of the procedure, although we recognize it's a fairly risky procedure," the lead surgeon, Dr. Gary Hartman, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Conjoined twins are rare and surgeries are even more scarce because most of the children don’t survive until birth or die shortly thereafter, the hospital reported. Separation surgery is performed about six times a year in the United States.

For Angelica and Angelina, the surgery is expected to give them an independence they’ve never known.

The girls were born in the Philippines but moved to San Jose with their mother last year to join their father, Felix Sabuco, a U.S. citizen who works as a technician for a Bay Area company. The family, which includes a 10-year-old son, has health insurance, the Chronicle said.

Though in good health and with emerging personalities that seemed to separate them at least in temperament, the girl are starting to develop curvatures in their spines and experience other physical abnormalities.

The girls' mother, Ginady Sabuco, told the newspaper she was excited about the surgery, but nonetheless nervous.

"I'm hoping they will live normally, like other children," said Sabuco, who told the newspaper that she did not learn that she was carrying conjoined twins until she was seven months pregnant.

The girls are expected to be hospitalized for two to three weeks following the surgery, the hospital said.

Four years ago, surgeons at the Stanford hospital performed separation surgery on Costa Rican twins Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha-Arias, whose hearts were attached at the right atrium -- a more complicated procedure than the one scheduled for Angelica and Angelina.

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-- Steve Marble

Photo: Conjoined twins Angelina and Angelica Sabuco sit with their aunt Marita Sabuco before undergoing separation surgery on Tuesday in Stanford, Calif. Credit: Lucile Packard Children's Hospital / Associated Press

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