Doctors said on Tuesday that a set of 1-month-old girls believed to be the first known American Indian conjoined twins are doing well and will be separated.
David Tuggle, a pediatric surgeon who will be involved in the separation, said Preslee Faith and Kylee Hope Wells were born Oct. 25 and are joined at the liver and rib cage.
“They are very cute and they hold each other,” Tuggle said.
Kyle Wells, 21, and Stevie Stewart, 20, of Calumet are the twins parents, both of whom have a history of twins in their families.
A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, Stewart said the girls are already developing personalities.
“Kylee is laid back and sleeps through anything, even her sister crying,” he said.
The twins, who weighed a combined 8 pounds, 7 ounces at birth, appear to have separate hearts, but doctors are unsure if the girls share blood vessels around their hearts, which could lead to complications during their separation.
“The thing about conjoined twins is that there is always something you don’t know exactly about them,” Tuggle said.
Conjoined twins are rare and occur in about 1 in 600,000 births in Oklahoma, Tuggle said. The condition happens soon after conception because of a random error in cell division.
The twin’s tissue connection was discovered during a routine ultrasound exam done when Stewart was 20 weeks pregnant. The babies were born at 34 weeks via Caesarean section.
Kris Sekar, a neonatal doctor who has been overseeing their care, said once they were birthed, they were placed in an intensive care unit at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, where they have been “on and off” breathing machines.
“They have great days and off days, but we have done very well,” Sekar said.
Stewart said doctors let her hold the babies whenever she wants and she changes their diapers, but she allows nurses to dress the twins.
Stewart’s mother, Marla Longbrake, said her daughter has handled the stressful situation well.
“It was a shock, but she and the father didn’t question it,” Longbrake said. “They’re just happy, beautiful little girls.”
“I have no idea how long the surgery might last or when it might take place, because the twins need to grow bigger and stronger first,” said Tuggle.
He believes it would be beneficial for the surgery to occur before the twins are eight to nine months old, to help with their psychological development.
The last surgical separation of conjoined twins at OU Medical Center happened in 1986, said Tuggle, who participated in the birth. Those twins, Faith and Hope Cox, are healthy and now in their 20s.
Stewart spoke with the mother of the Cox twins.
“It is nice to be able to talk to someone who’s been through this,” she said. “She said if I ever need anything to call her.”