After spending almost a year in intensive care following their arrival, conjoined twins Addison and Lilianna Altobelli were successfully separated — and they’re now back at home in Chicago with their parents.
Maggie Altobelli was 20-weeks pregnant when she learned at an ultrasound appointment that not only were she and Dom Altobelli expecting twins, but also that the siblings were connected at the abdomen, according to Today.
“I was trying to find out the gender of one baby I thought we were having, and then it turned out to be a little more complicated,” Maddie told the outlet. “It was an out-of-body experience.”
Fortunately, the parents soon discovered that while the girls shared a diaphragm and liver, they had their own separate hearts.
“Their shared liver was also large enough to divide between them, making them excellent candidates for separation surgery,” said Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where the surgery was performed.
Throughout the rest of their pregnancy, Maggie and Dom felt both excited and nervous about what the future would hold for their twin girls.
“It was quite a ride early on because me and Maggie were scared as hell and had no clue what was going to happen,” Dom told Today. “We had to just take it one step at a time.”
After developing a birth plan with their doctors, the couple welcomed daughters Addy and Lilly via Cesarian-section on Nov. 18, 2020, according to the outlet.
Then, doctors began preparing the twins — who spent the next 10 months in intensive care units at the hospital — for their separation surgery.
The preparation process included making 3D models of their liver to practice on, as well using skin expanders to help make sure they would both have enough to cover their exposed chest wall and abdomen following the surgery, according to the hospital.
In the months before the surgery, the conjoined twins also faced some frightening situations.
“If Lily got upset … she would (control) the breathing,” their mom said during her interview with Today. “There were times where Addy had coded because she couldn’t breathe because Lily would get upset.”
A week before the surgery, Maggie wrote an emotional letter to her girls.
“Throughout my time here at the place you were born, your Dad and I have witnessed something special — being parents to two miracles,” she wrote in the letter, which was shared with Today. “Now to think soon you could become two separate girls is overwhelmingly indescribable.”
“On October 13th, as your care team prepares to perform this high-risk surgery on the two of you — know that I am honored to have been chosen to be your mother,” she added. “You two are truly remarkable and have changed my life. We are so grateful that God chose us to take you on this journey and get you where you need to go.”
Then, on Oct. 13, following a 10-hour surgery, Addy and Lily were successfully separated.
“To see them with their own bodies — their bodies were just so perfect — it was amazing,” Maggie told the hospital in a press release. “It was just indescribable.”
Over a month later, the family of four was able to return back home to Chicago, according to the hospital. Upon arrival, they found their neighbors had already decorated their yard for Christmas.
Addy and Lily, now 14 months, both still use feeding tubes and ventilators to help with their breathing, according to the hospital. Doctors said they are hopeful they can be weaned off the ventilators in time.
While they’re no longer physically connected, the girls still share a remarkable bond.
“They sit up and look at each other and smile and play,” Dom told Today. “Anytime they’re close they’re reaching for each other’s hands and faces and breathing tubes.”
“This is our journey. It’s a very special one in many ways,” added Maggie. “These girls are going to live long, healthy lives. It’s pretty miraculous and unbelievable that we’re living this life.”