More than a year after Christian and Nicole McDonald’s twin boys Jadon and Anias were born, Nicole was able to hold Jadon alone for the first time this Sunday.
The boys were born Sept. 9 last year in Chicago, joined at the head. Craniopagus twins, such as Jadon and Anias are rare and only occur among two per cent of all conjoined twins born in the U.S., according to the University of Maryland.
When the couple, who are already parents to three-year-old son Aza, were told they were expecting twins joined at the head, Nicole said she was devastated.
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“I cried for two hours after I found out,” she wrote. “My mind was flooded with questions, with doubts, with fears, but then, with hope.”
The McDonalds connected with a specialist in New York City who had successfully performed craniopagus separation surgery seven times.
Dr. James Goodrich led a team of experts who used virtual imaging and 3D printing to meticulously plan the procedure.
After nearly 27 gruelling hours of surgery, Jadon and Anias were separated on Oct. 14.
“This was unexpectedly one of the hardest cases I have ever worked on,” Goodrich said in a statement. “We knew they shared an area of fused brain, but we did not know how complicated it would be until we looked inside. I am relieved that the procedure was successful.”
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Video posted to Facebook by CNN showed the moment Anias was wheeled out of the operating room, met by his anxious parents. Nicole burst into tears and Christian kissed his son and whispered, “Love you, pumpkin.”
Doctors removed Jadon from his breathing tube over the weekend, allowing Nicole to hold and cuddle him for a couple of hours. The Daily Mail reported that she called it a moment that she had dreamed of for over 13 months.
“I wrapped my arms around him and rocked. One of the most profound moments of my life,” she said.
The road to recovery for the twins is long and their doctors expect that they will have to undergo more reconstructive surgery, according to CNN.
READ MORE: Conjoined baby girls separated in 26-hour marathon surgery
For now, the family said they are taking it one day at a time and thanking God for their health.
“Without God we would have unraveled many, many months ago,” wrote Nicole. “People say we have handled this situation with grace, but it’s with God’s grace that we continue on.”
Jadon has so far recovered faster than Anias, who still has a breathing tube and continued to suffer seizures after the surgery.
“I know now that if I just stay patient that I’ll see the same type of progress for Anias. It’s just going to take time,” said Nicole.
Despite the long-awaited separation, the family is eagerly awaiting for the twins to be healthy enough to be together again.
“We’re really looking forward to getting them in the same bed,” Christian said in an interview with CNN correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “That’s going to be a very exciting moment.”