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Westchester Surgeons Introduce Conjoined Twin Girls In Separate Baby Wagons

Ballenie and Bellanie (right) during a news conference Tuesday at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. They were separated during a 21-hour surgery at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital on Jan. 17-18. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Born as conjoined twins on Feb. 4, 2016, Ballenie and Bellanie (right) were separated during a 21-hour surgery last week. They are shown with their parents, Abel Camacho and Laurilin Celadilla Marte, at Westchester Medical Center on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
A grateful mom of conjoined twins, Laurilin Celadilla Marte, described through an interpreter what it felt like to see the girls separate for the first time after a 21-hour surgery last week at Westchester Medical Center. Bellanie, at right, waved. Photo Credit: Contributed/Benjamin Cotten
Ballenie and Bellanie (right) clapped and watched reporters on Tuesday. They were separated during a 21-hour surgery last week. Here they are with their parents, Marino Abel Camacho and Laurilin Celadilla Marte, at Westchester Medical Center. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Westchester Medical Center staff rolled twin toddlers Ballenie and Bellanie Camacho out in separate wagons with pink and blue handles. 

Pink and Blue were code names for the 11-month-old girls during a rare 21-hour surgery last week that separated their attached spines and digestive tracts as well as shared circulatory connections.

The babies clapped and glanced around at dozens of reporters and camera crews during a Tuesday news conference at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla. They were joined by their parents, who are from the Dominican Republic.

A video of the news conference is linked here. 

A team of more than 50 medical professionals took part in the complicated surgeries; doctors that led the teams called the girls' prognosis very good for mobility and normal lives following physical therapy. It was the first surgery of its kind in the Hudson Valley.

Earlier procedures, which included gastrointestinal and reconstructive surgery work, helped prepare Ballenie and Bellanie for their unique separation surgery. It was the first separation of conjoined twins ever performed at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, and it is believed the first time in medical history that some of the surgical work was performed using laparoscopic techniques on twins joined at their lower back.

“Ballenie and Bellanie are as strong as they are beautiful and this dynamic duo is doing very well after a very long and complex surgery,” said Dr. Samir Pandya, who with Dr. Whitney McBride served as pediatric surgeons leading the surgical teams. 

McBride said, “Conjoined twins are rare -- about one set in every 200,000 births -- and every case has unique features due to the varied physical make-up of each patient."

(See graphic attached below that details how rare the surgery on conjoined twins is.)

Drs. McBride and Pandya then collaborated with Dr. Paul Zelkovic, a pediatric urologist, to separate the bladders and reproductive areas that Ballenie and Bellanie once shared. Dr. Damon Delbello, a pediatric orthopedist at the hospital, separated Ballenie and Bellanie at the sacrum.

-Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital co-chiefs of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Drs. Avinash Mohan and Michael Tobias performed some of the most challenging portions of the overall procedure: separation of the lower portions of the twin's spinal cords.

Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, led the reconstructive surgery work.

Pediatric anesthesia, led by Dr. Samuel Barst,  rotated four teams during the marathon procedure along with Nancy lnglese, head nurse of Children’s Operating Room.

Dr. Michael Gewitz, physician-in-chief, said many of the procedures used on the twins fine-tuned challenging surgical skills that the doctors and nurses can use to help many other children and trauma patients. 

"Thank you for accepting the challenge that has changed our lives,'' said the twins' mother, Laurilin.

Their father, Abel Camacho, said, "You feel the love (at this hospital). We always had confidence." 

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