VALHALLA, N.Y. (January 24, 2017) – More than 50 medical professionals from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), successfully separated 11-month-old twin girls Ballenie and Bellanie Camacho during a rare and complex 21-hour procedure January 17-18.
The separation surgery was the most significant in a series of procedures for Ballenie and Bellanie performed at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. The earlier procedures, which included gastrointestinal and reconstructive surgery work, helped prepare Ballenie and Bellanie for their unique separation surgery. This was the first separation of conjoined twins ever performed at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, the children’s hospital for New York’s Hudson Valley and Fairfield County, Connecticut, and it is believed the first time in medical history that some of the surgical work was performed using laparoscopic techniques on pygopagus (joined at lower back) twins.
“Ballenie and Bellanie are as strong as they are beautiful and this dynamic duo is doing very well after a very long and complex surgery,” said Samir Pandya, MD, who with Whitney McBride, MD, served as pediatric surgeons leading the surgical teams. “Their attachment presented us with many challenges but after a successful separation, Ballenie and Bellanie now have chances for better lives. We are thrilled to provide them with this life-altering opportunity.”
“Conjoined twins are rare - about one set in every 200,000 births* - and every case has unique features due to the varied physical make-up of each patient,” said Dr. McBride. “Our multidisciplinary team of pediatric surgeons, pediatric anesthesiologists and pediatric surgical nursing specialists collaborated to ensure a successful outcome for Ballenie and Bellanie. It was a total team effort that included general and intensive care pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists.”
Ballenie and Bellanie were connected at the sacrum, a triangular bone at the base of the spine. They had gastrointestinal connections and a shared branch of the hypogastric artery, which is the main supplier of blood to the pelvic region, hips, thighs and reproductive organs.
Drs. McBride and Pandya successfully separated the girls’ gastrointestinal connections and bifurcated the hypogastric artery branch, enabling proper blood flow to the twins’ lower extremities. Drs. McBride and Pandya then collaborated with Paul Zelkovic, MD, a pediatric urologist at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, to separate the bladders and reproductive areas that Ballenie and Bellanie shared with common tissues. Damon Delbello, MD, a pediatric orthopedist at the hospital, separated Ballenie and Bellanie at the sacrum.
Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital Co-Chiefs of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Avinash Mohan, MD, and Michael Tobias, MD, performed some of the most challenging portions of the overall procedure: the separation of the lower portions of Ballenie’s and Bellanie’s spinal cords.
Kaveh Alizadeh, MD, Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of WMCHealth, led the reconstructive surgery work, which involved the expansion of skin surface over the course of several weeks prior to the separation procedure to be able to close the separation.
Pediatric anesthesia, led by Samuel Barst, MD, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s Chief of Pediatric Anesthesia, rotated four teams during the marathon procedure with Nancy lnglese, RN, Head Nurse, Children’s Operating Room, leading more than a dozen pediatric nursing and surgical technology specialists.
The care team overcame a number of procedural challenges, included the rotation of teams, and the safe, coordinated transfer of one patient to another operating room table during the lengthy procedure.
“The separation of Ballenie and Bellanie was a significant undertaking that was successful due to the skill, dedication and tireless preparation of a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists here at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital,” said Michael Gewitz, MD, William Russell McCurdy Physician-in-Chief, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. “The team met regularly for months, utilized new technologies for diagnoses, commissioned personalized, three-dimensional models of the girls’ anatomies and performed simulation procedures to ensure a successful outcome.
“Ballenie and Bellanie can now live independent lives and we couldn’t happier to provide this ‘freedom’ to the girls and their parents, Laurilin and Abel.”
The prognosis for Ballenie and Bellanie are good. They will will spend several weeks in recovery at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.
The Story of Ballenie and Bellanie
Born February 4, 2016, Ballenie and Bellanie reside in Moca, Dominican Republic with their parents, Laurilin Celadilla Marte and Marino Abel Camacho, along with “big” sister, Linabelle, 2. A family friend alerted Laurilin and Abel to the specialists at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in the spring of 2016 and later in the summer, their daughters were initially observed by hospital surgeons via WMCHealth’s telemedicine program. The family came to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at summer’s end for further evaluation and soon thereafter, plans for Ballenie and Bellanie’s separation procedure began.
About Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a Member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network
Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is the children’s hospital for New York’s Hudson Valley region and Fairfield County, Connecticut. Located in Valhalla, NY, this 136-bed advanced pediatrics facility cares for the region’s most seriously ill and injured children including those in need of cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, hematology and oncology treatments, organ transplants and other specialty pediatric services. Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is also home to the area’s only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Level I pediatric trauma and burn care programs and its Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. For more information on Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, interested parties can visit www.WestchesterMedicalCenter.org/MFCH or follow the hospital at www.Facebook.com/MFCHatWMC and www.Twitter.com/MFCHatWMC.
About Westchester Medical Center Health Network
The Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) is a 1,700-bed healthcare system headquartered in Valhalla, New York, with 10 hospitals on eight campuses spanning 6,200 square miles of the Hudson Valley. WMCHealth employs more than 12,000 people and has nearly 3,000 attending physicians. From Level 1, Level 2 and Pediatric Trauma Centers, the region’s only acute care children’s hospital, an academic medical center, several community hospitals, dozens of specialized institutes and centers, skilled nursing, assisted living facilities, homecare services and one of the largest mental health systems in New York State, today WMCHealth is the pre-eminent provider of integrated healthcare in the Hudson Valley. For more information about WMCHealth, visit www.WMCHealth.org.
*According to University of Maryland Medical Center Ballenie and Bellanie,prior to separation, at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital