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Surgeons separate conjoined Filipino two-year-olds in US

SAN FRANCISCO -- U.S. surgeons on Tuesday successfully separated conjoined two-year-old girls born in the Philippines, bringing tears to the eyes of their mother who praised God for keeping them alive.

A team of 20 doctors helped by 15-20 operating staff at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital worked for 10 hours to separate Angelina and Angelica Sabuco, who had spent all of their lives so far joined at the chest and abdomen.

“I thank God for everything; words cannot express how the family feels for the successful separation of our twins, Angelica and Angelina,” said their crying mother Ginady Sabuco.

Lead surgeon Gary Hartman at the hospital in the northern Californian city of Palo Alto, said they expected the girls to make a “complete recovery.”

“We're very pleased ... It could not have gone better,” he said.

“They're very resilient. The long-term prognosis is that we would expect a happy, healthy set of girls. We don't see any barriers to a complete recovery.”

The twins were in intensive care and sedated, but may begin to be woken up on Wednesday and are likely to spend a week in the ICU and another week in the hospital if all goes well, the hospital said.

Hartman told reporters the surgery took slightly longer than anticipated, with the riskiest part, dividing the girls' livers, going slowly but smoothly.

“There was really no blood loss during that part of the procedure,” he said, adding: “We were able to close the abdominal muscles without a graft, and the chest closure also went better than we anticipated.”

Plastic surgeon Peter Lorenz, who led the reconstruction procedures, said there would be relatively little sign of the twins' past, after the operation.

“They will have a long scar from the middle of their chests down to the belly button, a straight line,” the surgeon said, adding: “That's all that will show.”

The girls, who turned two in August, were joined at the chest and belly but had separate brains, hearts, kidneys, stomachs and intestines.

Before the operation doctors said they expected to take six hours to separate the girls and two to three hours more to conduct reconstruction work.

It was lead surgeon Hartman's sixth operation on conjoined twins. The most recent set separated at the hospital were Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha-Arias of Costa Rica in November 2007.

Ginady learned her babies were conjoined when she was seven months pregnant and her husband was working in San Jose, California.

She joined her husband, Fidel, in California in late 2010, more than a year after the birth, and the couple began meeting with doctors.

“I want them to live normally, like other children,” said Ginady.

The twins were recovering Tuesday night in the pediatric intensive care unit.

“They will be sedated and on assisted ventilation throughout the night. If their condition is good, they may be awakened from sedation tomorrow and taken off of ventilators within the next few days,” said the hospital.

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