Formerly conjoined twin 2-year-old girls from Costa Rica are well enough to go home soon, two months after they were separated by surgeons in a nine-hour operation at Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto.
The girls, Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha-Arias, were the stars of a press conference Tuesday at the hospital as their mother, Maria Elizabeth Arias, expressed her gratitude to the hospital staff, physicians and nonprofit groups that made the operation possible.
Speaking in Spanish through a translator, Arias thanked the hospital "for opening the doors to our girls and giving life back to them. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart."
All the medical care was donated by the hospital while a non-profit group, Mending Kids International, paid their transportation and housing.
Doctors had initially given the girls a 50-50 chance of survival. They had been conjoined at their chests and abdomens.
Yurelia needed a second operation shortly after the Nov. 12 separation surgery to correct a congenital heart anomaly, while Fiorella needed a second operation to help reconstruct her chest cavity.
"The girls are doing well, they have been healing," Gary Hartman, lead surgeon for their care, said. "We think the surgeries are done."
Now, the girls await when they will return home with their mother to Costa Rica to rejoin their father and a large family of nine brothers and sisters who helped care for the girls since their birth.
When Hartman arrived in Costa Rica last July to bring the girls and their mother to Palo Alto, he said he was struck by how close and loving the family was.
He said he realized that "I'm taking these girls away and I may not bring them back. We don't have to worry about that now. That is not the story."
After the press conference in a hospital auditorium, the girls were taken out to a wide hallway with two small wagons full of toys. They seemed more interested in each other and the toys than the photographers who surrounded them.