Once-conjoined twin girls just celebrated their first milestone since they underwent a miracle surgery to separate them.
Eva and Erika Sandoval rang in their third birthday surrounded by family and friends on Saturday – an occasion that signifies the girls’ ability to live their lives as individuals for all birthdays to come.
“To know that they were going to have separate individual lives, it was such an amazing prayer that was answered,” Eva and Erika’s at-home nurse told CBS13.
The twins’ parents, Sacramento residents Arturo and Aida Sandoval, said their daughters’ birthday was a “big deal” because they weren’t sure if the girls would make it to their third birthday.
“Being at the hospital, I can’t picture anything but getting the girls healthy,” Aida Sandoval said.
The girls were born conjoined at the chest. At 2 years old, a team of 50 doctors at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital performed a risky 17-hour surgery to separate them.
The surgery was successful, but the real challenge came after – during Eva and Erika’s road to recovery.
There were a lot of “unknowns” on how to care for the twins at first post-surgery, said Erica Keesis-Segura, who cared for the girls while they were in the neonatal intensive care unit at Stanford Children’s Hospital.
“How do we put a diaper on them? How do you hold them? How do we change them?” Kessis-Segura, who drove to Sacramento for the birthday party, recalled asking herself.
The girls are now healthy and thriving, their mother said.
“They are missing one leg, but they are normal,” Aida Sandoval said. “As normal as they can be. To us, they are perfect.”
Arturo Sandoval said he doesn’t see his daughters’ disability slowing them down as they grow.
“So you don’t have your leg, that’s not a big deal, that’s not a crutch, it’s just a thing you have to live with,” he said.
The twins are exceeding all expectations and taking their separation in stride. Although doctors said they would never be able to sit down, they were able to while still recovering in the hospital, Aida Sandoval said.
“The amazing moments are those moments when they start to get up on the couch, when they get up on the little horsey they just got,” said the proud mother. “It’s the little things.”
The Sandoval family is now looking to the future and planning to enroll the girls in pre-school. They’re now even experiencing the standard anxiety that comes with parenting.
“It’s nerve-racking,” Aida Sandoval said. “I know I’m going to cry, but I know it’s the best thing for them.”
Eva and Erika may no longer be conjoined at the chest, so seeing them now able to come together for embrace brings tears of joy to their mother’s eyes.
“I actually cry when I see them hugging each other,” Aida Sandoval said.