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1904, priest Mitrophan Serebryaniy

How our Siamese twins were successfully separated by Siberian surgeons

By The Siberian Times reporter
10 February 2013

Twin sisters Violetta and Evelina Yachmenev left hospital in Barnaul just before they turned two months old.

Yelena and husband Vitaliy leaving hospital with daughters Violetta and Evelina. Picture: Nashi Novosti Barnaul

It was more than 20 days since surgery which made them famous all around Russia. At birth, the girls were joined at the abdomen and chest.

'We are very happy to let 'our' girls go today, we know that they are fine and we do hope to be in touch,' said 

Yulia Miller, Chief of the Premature Babies Rehabilitation Centre of Altai Regional Children Clinical Hospital, after the successful surgery.

'We passed them into the caring hands of their local pediatrician, so we now have a way to keep an eye on their progress. 

'It is great to get to the day when they can get back home to their family.'

The proud parents and their two separated twins left with flowers, gifts, and donations of money  to their village of Samsonovo in Shipunovskiy district of Altai region. This moment of joy was the culmination of a tense period for the parents.

'I was told that girls were conjoined on the 22nd week of my pregnancy. Me and my husband decided to keep the pregnancy and do all we could to help our girls,' said mother Yelena, 34. 

'The girls were quite small when they were born, together their weight was 3,200g, so about 1,600g each. Then one of them got pneumonia, and for a while both of them needed lung ventilation,' said Dr Miller. 'My colleague surgeons decided to perform surgery after girls put on a bit more weight,  and carried it out when their joint weight was 6,200 g. 

'I was the person who was preparing the girls for the surgery, and then looking after them when they were separated. But the success of the surgery is totally with our surgeons and anaesthesiologists. '

She was happy that after the operation 'the girls have good appetite and are putting on weight as they should'.

siamese twins Siberia

Yulia Miller, Chief of the Premature Babies Rehabilitation Centre of Altai Regional Children Clinical Hospital (L) with mother Yelena and twins Violetta and Evelina. Picture: Nashi Novosti Barnaul

If the parents were tense, so were the doctors. It was only the fourth such operation in Russia since 1990.

The surgery was led by Chief Surgeon of the hospital Yuri Ten and Head of Children Surgical Diseases of Altai State Medical University, Vladimir Kozhevnikov. 

'It was our first surgery of this kind, everything was for the first time,' said the chief surgeon.

'The operation lasted about 90 minutes. The problem was that there were absolutely no guidelines how to do such operations - no techniques, no methodology. So, we had to improvise.'

He explained: 'We had to decide with the anaesthesiologists how to  access the main vein to deliver the anaesthetics. 

'Since they were joined by their tummies and chests there was no way we could have put them on their backs to do it.  So it took us some time and effort to figure it out. When selecting the type of anaesthetics and figuring out the amount, we pondered how to act for the best.

'Should we take their blood system as one or as separate for each of them? The girls had their livers, abdominal wall and breast bone conjoined.

'But as the old saying goes, while you eyes are scared, your hands go ahead and do what needs to be done. 

'So we removed their hernias, formed tummy buttons, separated their chest bones and liver. 

'Are we proud of what we've done? 

'When we were getting ready for  surgery and in the operation theatre we simply concentrated on doing our best possible. It was a tense time but girls and us managed it. So yes I guess we do feel proud now.'

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Head of Children Surgical Diseases of Altai State  Medical University, Vladimir Kozhevnikov (L) and Chief Surgeon of Altai Regional Children Clinical Hospital Yuri Ten. Pictures: Nashi Novosti Barnaul

Yelena, still crying tears of joy, has nothing but praise for the medics who helped her girls. 

'They are more than friends for me. They are people who I trusted like no-one before in my life. 

'They were always honest with me, pointing openly to the potential risks and to the ways of overcoming them. 

'With them, we hoped for the best. Perhaps there are words in Russian that can say everything I feel towards these fantastic people - but I simply don't know them. I've been crying a lot these days.  First because of fear for my daughters, and now when it's clear that they are going to be fine, I can't stop the tears of happiness'.

Before leaving the hospital, she said: 'Everything is OK now. I can't wait to get back home'.  

The couple's two sons aged ten and 12 were waiting anxiously for their sisters.

Meanwhile, father Vitaliy Yachmenev said: 'I've been preparing everything at home. It took me some time to get the right things.

'I wasn't sure what they would like best, which colour. Its so much easier with boys!'

Comments (1)

Bless the doctors, taking my hat off to them. It must have been the scariest time of their lives for the parents to wait for the results of the surgery. All best luck to the little ones and their family.
PAul, France
11/02/2013 23:28

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