Texas Children’s clinicians began preparing the Mata twins for surgery at 7:43 a.m. on February 17, 2015. The team didn’t stop working for another 26 hours.
By Kimberly Vetter
The surgery that would separate the Mata twins was an intricate production, involving 12 surgeons, nine nurses and countless support staff. Together they performed an exceptionally complex series of surgical procedures, meticulously choreographed to ensure that each step of the process would lead to and support the steps to come. Throughout the separation process, the Mata family stood by, waiting and praying for good news.
In the early morning hours of February 17, 2015, Elysse Mata sat holding her babies tightly, crying and kissing them as she said goodbye. It was her last chance to spend time with them before they underwent a historic surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital that would offer them the chance of separate lives.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a year,” Elysse said. “Ever since we found out the twins were conjoined, we’ve been praying and hoping this day would come.”
Elysse’s husband, John Eric Mata, and their then-5-year-old son, Azariah, were also near, kissing the girls’ foreheads and holding their tiny hands while they anxiously awaited the start of the procedure. A group of extended family and friends joined the Matas in an emotional prayer led by Texas Children’s Hospital Chaplain Kristen Springmeyer.
“God of all people and places, we come before you today to offer you Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata, known by their family simply as Hope and Faith,” Springmeyer said. “We pray for the staff that will be caring for them, for their holy hands as they begin their separation.”
Lead surgeon Darrell Cass, MD, entered the room, gave the family a hug, and with the help of supporting operating room staff, escorted the girls to Texas Children’s Operating Room 12. Members of the twins’ care team from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), who had been by their sides for 10 months, lined the hallways in an emotional show of support.
Just after 7 a.m., Knatalye and Adeline were wheeled into the operating room where a team of more than 40 clinicians from seven pediatric specialties began the surgical procedures to separate the twins.
THEY ARE TWO
The initial separation was not the end of the marathon surgery. Separate for the first time, the twins were taken to different operating rooms where teams of surgeons continued to work on the girls’ critical organs. Pediatric gynecologists and pediatric urologists spent hours on the girls’ reproductive systems. Orthopedic surgeons reconstructed the girls’ pelvic bones.
Just before 10 a.m., some 26 hours after the surgery began, it was complete. The family saw their girls, apart for the first time, in adjacent rooms in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where they would be cared for by a team including both their NICU primary nurses and their new PICU nurses.
Elysse said she and her family were extremely grateful for the team that separated her babies, and the countless hours they put into understanding the girls’ conditions and how best to treat them.
Cass and several other surgeons, including plastic surgeon Ed Buchanan, MD, met the family in Adeline’s room to share in the family’s joy and relief. They gave the family a summary of the monumental procedure and explained what they should expect in the next few days.
“Thank you for your trust,” Cass said to the Mata family. “We are going to keep doing everything we can to get them through this. So far, so good.”
Hollier said that to the best of his knowledge the Mata separation surgery is the first time a case with this many connections at the chest, abdomen and pelvis has ever been done successfully.
“It could not have gone better,” he said. “It was phenomenal teamwork and great preparation on the part of the institution.”
A DREAM REALIZED
By late morning Wednesday, February 19, Elysse and John Eric were again with their babies, watching over the girls in their two separate beds. It was a moment they had been awaiting for more than a year. And it marked the beginning of a promising new chapter, thanks to the compassionate expertise of Texas Children’s physicians, nurses, and countless staff and employees.
“We love them,” Elysse said of the girls’ medical team. “They mean the world to us, and they will forever hold a special place in our hearts.”
Surgeon-in-Chief Charles D. Fraser, Jr., MD, said the separation surgery is another example of the dedication and depth of skill that the professionals in the Department of Surgery bring to their patients.
“I am proud to work with this tremendous team,” he said. “Their planning and hard work have given Knatalye and Adeline a chance to lead separate lives.”
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