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Separated twins return


 Teresa (left) and Maria Tapia (right) are held by their mother, Lisandra Sanatis, and Dr. David Lanning at a party at World Pediatric Project in Richmond on Wednesday.
Dean Hoffmeyer/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 11/2/2012

RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH

The weight difference that once made it easy to distinguish between twins Maria and Teresa Tapia, the Dominican girls born connected to each other at the chest and abdomen, has disappeared.

Even their mother, Lisandra Sanatis, has trouble telling them apart these days.

"I really have to look at their faces, and Teresa has a mole on her nose, so that's how I can tell them apart," Sanatis said Wednesday during a Halloween party at the Henrico County headquarters of World Pediatric Project.

The Richmond-based philanthropy sends teams of doctors to Caribbean countries on medical missions and brings children with more complex cases to the U.S. for surgery. It arranged for the girls to have separation surgery at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU in November 2011.

The twins, now 21/2 years old, and their mother returned to Richmond this week, where the girls are getting a medical checkup and visiting with supporters who helped the family during their stay in Richmond.

Unlike last year when the twins wore a bumblebee Halloween costume that was specially made by VCU design students to fit their joined bodies, this year they each had their own princess dress, one pink, one blue, with tiaras and magic wands to complete their outfits.

"As far as health goes, they are doing very well," Sanatis said.

That was confirmed during an afternoon check-up at VCU. Dr. David Lanning, surgeon-in-chief at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, led the separation surgery, which involved more than 40 medical staff members. Transplant surgeon Robert Fisher, pediatric surgeon Claudio Oiticica and plastic surgeon Jennifer Rhodes also had key roles in the surgery, which lasted 18 hours for one twin and 20 hours for the other.

Prior to surgery, the girls' livers were fused, as were their duodenums, the top part of the small intestine. Each had her own heart and kidneys, and each had two arms and two legs. They were healthy, but one of the girls was about 20 percent heavier because the nutrition both girls were taking in went mostly to one of them.

Teresa, who a year ago weighed about 29 pounds now weighs 33 pounds. Maria, who last year weighed about 22 pounds, now weighs close to 32 pounds.

"They have great health, and they love to play," Sanatis said, "They still act very close to each other. They are always hugging and kissing on each other."