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UCLA Magazine Fall 2002
The Little Marias
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Fall 2002
The Little Marias
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The twins are rolled into the OR

ON AUGUST 5, THE TASK OF SEPARATING THE TWINS occupies the world's attention as they watch through the camera lenses of a throng of international media holding vigil outside the Mattel Children's Hospital. Inside, the medical team, led by Lazareff and Kawamoto, begins carrying out each step of the meticulously planned marathon operation. Early estimates are that the surgery might take 15 hours, but the operating room is booked for 48 hours, just in case.

At 7:53 a.m., after saying their teary goodbyes in the glare of television cameras, Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesús' parents watch as their girls are rolled on a gurney past the nurses' station on their way to OR 22, the only operating room large enough to accommodate all the people and equipment necessary for the surgery.

Although the anesthesia team spent several hours setting up the OR the night before, it takes almost six hours of careful, intensive work to prep the girls. Lines and tubes are everywhere. The girls' airways are secured with tubes down their throats and noses. Multiple IVs flow into each patient. Multiple EKG leads. Blood-pressure monitors. Hemodynamic monitors. Catheters. Because there are so many lines going at once, they are color-coded: Maria Teresa's are blue, Maria de Jesús' are yellow.

The hours tick by, but the focus of the team is so intense that they hardly notice how much time has elapsed. "Time was not something we were considering," says Barbara Van de Wiele, who headed the 10-member anesthesia team, after the surgery is over. "If it took us two days, that would have been OK.

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