Formerly conjoined twin gives birth at hospital where she was separated from her sister
"I wouldn't call it a miracle, I would call it a medical triumph."
A survivor of a conjoined twin separation has given birth to her own child at the same hospital where she was born and later separated from her sister.
Charity Lincoln Gutierrez-Vazquez and her twin sister Kathleen were separated by a team of nearly 30 doctors, nurses and support staff at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington in 2000 when they were 7 months old.
The twins made headlines when they were born conjoined, sharing several internal organs and a third fused leg (with one leg each). News outlets had followed the complicated 31-hour surgery to separate them and then put each baby back together.
Lead surgeon Dr. John Waldhausen at the time told NBC's Dateline: "This is probably about as complex and as difficult as anything we do or have done."
Now, Charity has returned to the same hospital to welcome her own daughter, Alora. Dr. Waldhausen was one of the first people she called when she found out she was expecting.
"When you're involved with an operation like that, you're really hoping that you can create a whole lifetime for somebody," he said on TODAY. "And then to see this happening, this really comes full circle, so this is a great day for all of us."
The surgeon did, however, add he was initially worried when he was informed of her pregnancy. "I didn't know if her uterus was going to allow her to carry a child," he admitted. "I didn't know if her abdominal wall reconstruction was going to allow her abdomen to expand in such a way that a baby could grow."
Dr. Waldhausen reached out to a colleague, Dr. Edith Cheng, to oversee Charity's pregnancy and labour. 21 years after she was separated from her twin sister at the same hospital, Charity welcomed daughter Alora at nearly 34 weeks via C-section.
"It feels like full circle, since my mom had us here and everything," the new mam told TODAY.
The newborn was immediately taken to the NICU for supplemental oxygen, but doctors say both mother and baby are healthy.
"I wouldn't call it a miracle," Dr. Waldhausen said. "I would call it a medical triumph."
"Charity's case really is the full obstetrical circle," Dr. Cheng added. "This howling girl this morning, at almost 34 weeks, that is a true triumph, to get this baby to almost term. This baby's healthy."
Charity's twin sister, Kathleen, met her niece over FaceTime and is excited to see her in person.
The birth of her daughter has proved to Charity what a blessing and testament to modern medicine her life is.
"God has really blessed me with all the doctors in my life and everything," she said. "I think it's important that people see that we're still doing good, and living the best life we can."