Conjoined Twins Refuse Risky Surgery Despite Doctor’s Opinions
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Sixteen-year-olds Lupita and Carmen Andrade are like any other teenagers. They’re learning how to drive, have strong opinions on clothes, and are thinking about college. But there’s one thing that makes them very different from the rest of their peers: they’re conjoined twins. The girls are attached along their chest walls down to their pelvis. They each have their own hearts, lungs, a stomach, and two arms, but share a circulatory system and several other vital organs. They each control one of their legs, requiring amazing coordination to walk.
Doctors have advised the girls to get a dangerous surgery to help Lupita breathe easier, but the surgery has so many risks that the girls don’t see the point.
Carmen and Lupita were born in Mexico, but when they were a year old their parents brought them to the United States in search of expert medical care. Despite being told the girls would only live a few days past birth, the sisters thrived, learning how to walk and care for themselves through physical therapy. Doctors explored separating the girls when they were younger, but concluded it couldn’t be done safely. However, as the girls have aged, other health problems have arisen.
Because of the way they are attached, Lupita has a very severe form of scoliosis. Lupita’s spine curves so severely that her lungsÂ are functioning at only 40 percent of capacity. The surgery is complicated by the fact that it’s never been performed on conjoined twins. According to the Hartford Courant, the girls’ doctor, Mark Lee, carefully explained the risks. “The worst-case scenario is that you die from the surgery and that’s a possibility. Short of losing your life, you can lose neurologic function. If you lose neurologic function and one or both legs don’t work, you’ll know about it right away.” Without the surgery, Lupita’s scoliosis will worsen, which could leave her needing supplemental oxygen and could even shorten her lifespan.
The sisters hope to study animal husbandry or veterinary medicine in college, although their future in the country is somewhat uncertain. They are in the United States on their parents’ work visas, and there’s a possibility President Trump could do away with that program. They’re outspoken advocates for immigration rights, and are always quick to defend other students who are also deemed, “different.” As Carmen said to the Courant, “You may look different but you still try to be like everyone else.”
Despite the promise of Lupita’s condition worsening, the girls do not want to get the surgery. As they told the Courant,Â “There’s a lot more risk to it than it actually being beneficial so we…” Carmen started,Â “… decided not to,” Lupita finished. “We’re just going to live out life and that’s it.”