Abigail and Micaela Bachinskiy were born as craniopagus twins. It's an extremely rare condition where twins are born joined at the head.
Craniopagus twins occur in one in every 2.5 million births.
The twins' mom, Liliya, learned of their condition when she was just 11 weeks pregnant. She received extensive prenatal care to make sure the girls stayed healthy in utero.
Abigail and Micaela were born in December 2019 and spent seven weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UC Davis Children's Hospital, where they would ultimately undergo the successful 24-hour surgery to separate them.
"We have felt so much support from staff. We have received so much help, so much advice. It has made us feel at home here," Liliya said in a statement.
When the girls turned nine months old, their surgeons decided it was time to separate them.
"As they get older, there are more risks of shared blood vessels and organs becoming larger or more entwined. The upcoming flu, COVID-19 and RSV season was also a concern," said lead plastic surgeon Granger Wong.
More than 30 medical staff members took part in the marathon surgery. The doctors and nurses were separated into color-coded teams while they watched over the girls. Team Orange cared for Abigail while Team Purple focused on Micaela. Purple and orange masking tape was also used to label equipment in the operating room.
UC Davis Health press release
"It was like a choreographed ballet," said Dr. Wong. The girls were officially separated at 3:28 a.m.
"After 10 months of preparation, we were witnessing what we had all envisioned for the girls and we were overcome with emotion and joy," said Children's Surgery Center nursing lead Aida Benitez. "I will never see 3:28 on a clock again and not think of the moment that Abi and Mica became two separate babies."
Doctors said the 24-hour procedure to separate the girls was 'flawless.' Their mother is grateful that her girls are already on the road to recovery.
"Everything went well. It felt almost impossible to separate them, but God and the doctors and nurses at UC Davis made it possible. We are so thankful," Liliya said.