Mighty Blog

Conjoined at birth: The story of twin’s amazing separation

Breanna and Blake were just two ordinary parents excited to add to their family. They quickly found out that not only were they expecting, but Breanna was pregnant with twins!

However, the surprises didn’t stop there. At 9 weeks gestation, an ultrasound revealed that their two babies might be conjoined twins.

“Being conjoined is rare, extraordinarily rare. But to be conjoined like this is, is not something we could even calculate,” described Dr. Joseph Lillegard, MD, PhD, pediatric surgeon at Children’s Minnesota, of the twins.

Breanna gave birth to her twin girls –Emersynn and Ellerie—at 35+ weeks at The Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis. They went home with the twins knowing they would soon return to Children’s Minnesota for the next step: Surgery to separate the twins.

Before surgery

Breanna pregnant with twins
Emersynn and Ellerie, conjoined twins
Photo credit: Jessica Gall Photography

When they were 7 months old, Emersynn and Ellerie went to Children’s Minnesota for their separation surgery with Dr. Lillegard and the broad team of pediatric specialists.

Before surgery, Blake explained a moment he and his wife will never forget. “I just remember looking at Dr. Lillegard and she [Breanna] looked at Lillegard and said, ‘You got this’ and he looked at her and said, ‘I got this.’”

The twins were wheeled away from their parents very early in the morning leaving them in the waiting room nervous and scared.

“What scared us the most is, I think, all the unknowns. Not knowing if you’re going… if you’re going to take both babies home, not knowing if you’re going to take any home, things like that,” said Breanna.

Emersynn and Ellerie’s mom and dad felt every emotion you could feel during that time in the waiting room.

The separation

After over 12 hours of surgery with 25 medical professionals participating, Emersynn and Ellerie emerged separated and healthy.

The doctors and medical staff came out to tell Breanna and Blake the good news. “You could just see it on their faces, they were emotionally and physically drained, just like us. It was incredible,” said Blake.

Dr. Lillegard was extremely proud of the team that worked on Emersynn and Ellerie. “I cannot tell you how proud I am of the neurosurgical team, anesthesia team and the people in the room, they were just seamless – they were perfect.”

The doctors and medical staff standing next to parents smiling

The reconciliation

Emersynn and Ellerie were placed in neighboring rooms with a window wall separating them so mom and dad could be in one room and see the other baby in the other room right next to them.

Blake and Breanna brought their two separated daughters home healthy and happy.

“Thank you, Children’s Minnesota, for everything you’ve done for us. You’ve changed our life in more ways than you’ll ever know,” said Blake.

Emersynn and Ellerie are two happy baby girls who are about to celebrate their first birthday.

“These two kids are going to have very full, largely uncomplicated lives because of this. The sky is the limit for them,” Dr. Lillegard said beaming with pride.

Watch their story

Alexandra Rothstein