Jadon and Anias – the conjoined twin boys separated last week in a story that swept the world – have opened their eyes. The 13-month-old boys are still recovering in their hospital beds in the Bronx’s Montefiore Hospital five days after their 27-hour separation surgery.
And on Tuesday morning, both of them opened their eyes for the first time on CNN Facebook Live. Compared to his brother, Jadon was relatively stable throughout the surgery, and has made an incredibly fast recovery. He moved his left arm the other day, and now they are working on his left leg. Importantly, he is reacting to people.
He had already opened his eyes, and is now starting to smile. But Tuesday was the first time Anias opened his – and Jadon did so at the same time. Even though Anias’ eyes only peeked open a bit, it was far more than doctors expected at this time. Their parents, Nicole and Christian, joked to CNN that Anias ‘just loves the camera’. Anias struggled throughout the surgery. With every cut, his heart rate plummeted. The boys shared a lot more blood vessels than their surgeon had anticipated.
He has yet to move, he is only just coming out of his anesthetic. But his parents said they are optimistic about his recovery as well. On Friday, Nicole posted the first photo of the boys lying side by side in adjacent hospital beds. Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Christian said the next step is getting them lying next to each other in the same bed. Their mother Nicole McDonald shared a photo of them together when they were first reunited on Friday afternoon.
“Finally reunited. How surreal,” the 31-year-old wrote on Facebook. ‘I now realize that I always saw you as separate because seeing you like this is really nothing different to me.
“When I stand at your bedside, Jadon, it’s almost as if Anias is still there. Anias, when I leaned over you I protected my hair from Jadon. But the view is still the same. This is how I always saw you. I love you so much. Now it’s time to step forward into the new chapter of our life. I’m ready to fight and I know you are too.”
She added, “Thank you, Dr Goodrich, Dr Tepper, Kamilah, Martine, Dr Kahana, Dr Mann and everyone else at Montefiore. Your hands performed a miracle today. We love you.”
Nicole said neither she nor her husband, Christian, initially wanted to go public with their story until they realised it would provide the chance to give credit to the people who saved their sons. The mother-of-three has been flooded with supportive messages on her Facebook, but Nicole now wanted to turn the attention ‘back to the true heroes of our story’.
“The real heroes of this story are the people who have put countless hours, days and months into the success of today,” she began in her Facebook post on Saturday.
“This is not a hospital, it’s a community. Everyone knows each other by first name. The caregiver support centre in the heart of the hospital was my sanctuary.”
Nicole then expressed her gratitude to everyone who donated and to all her relatives who came to visit and help take care of her eldest son Aza, whiles he and Christian took care of their twins. Then she thanked Christian, who Nicole revealed ‘gave up so many dreams, so many goals’ to become a stay-at-home father to Aza while Nicole took the twins to the hospital.
“He makes me laugh when I’m crying,” she wrote. “He picks me up off the floor when I just can’t seem to go on. And his eyes…the way he looks at all of our boys…it’s so touching. His heart is enormous. Marriage through a trial like this is not easy. But every day, he still wakes up and chooses to love me…and that’s saying something. I love him with all I have and then some. There is no one else I would want to go on this journey with.”
Nicole then dedicated a paragraph to her son Aza, her ‘precious little boy’ who ‘just rolls with the punches’.
“At the age of three, he has moved four times,” she wrote. “He went from having mommy every day to really only seeing me at night time. His heart is just like his daddy’s…full of love. He LOVES his babies and has never once noticed their connection. He just lays his head on them like I do to hug them, hands them their toys, and gives them their pacifiers. There are so many times I would come home from the hospital, totally exhausted, and he says “mommy hold you” because he wants me to snuggle him. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s holding me.”
Nicole then revealed that her ‘biggest hero’ was God, who she thanked for ‘guiding every single step of this process’ and ‘bringing together the perfect group of people to make a miracle happen’.
The touching Facebook post has already been liked more than 13,000 times and received more than a thousand comments.
Meanwhile, Anais and Jadon have finally been reunited, their two separate beds side-by-side as they continue to heal from an operation their doctors weren’t sure they would survive in the first place. Halfway through the operation, Goodrich actually considered stopping the procedure altogether. The doctors had discovered the boys shared far more brain tissue than they had expected – even despite using 3D imaging to prepare. With every cut, Anias’ heart rate and blood pressure plummeted. Eventually Goodrich found an opening and continued, successfully separating the two. However, it means that while Jadon was wheeled out at 7am into the ward, Anias was still in surgery late on Friday morning. He was finally returned to his family at 1pm on Friday. Doctors warned he could face severe physical issues.
Their parents, from near Chicago, Illinois, sat in the waiting room the whole time. Nicole, 31, took to Facebook on Friday to explain all the details to the thousands of people that have followed the family’s story.
“The overall atmosphere was one of celebration mixed with uncertainty,” she explained.
“Anias really got rocked in this procedure. It really now is up to God in terms of how he recovers.”
She added, “I keep picturing Anias smiling behind his right middle finger in his mouth. Twenty four hours ago he was so rambunctious…full of life. God please give me my baby back.”
Describing Jadon’s ordeal, Nicole wrote, “Jadon is such a rock star. They said he hardly batted an eye through the whole procedure in terms of maintaining his vitals. It’s a bit surreal to sit here and type this…I should feel so happy…TWO SEPARATE BABIES!!!…and yet I ache with the uncertainty of the future. I didn’t cry until the surgeon’s left the room. I was barely able to even utter the words “thank you” because of the pit that still sits heavy in my stomach. We are standing on the brink of a vast unknown.”
The boys were born via caesarean section last September near Chicago, Illinois. They were attached by the crown of the head. Nicole and 37-year-old Christian insisted the boys were perfect as they were. But in order to let them lead a normal life, they traveled to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, New York, to have one of the world’s most esteemed surgeons perform the incredibly rare operation to separate their heads.
The operation costs $2.5 million.
The article was first published on CNN