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UCLA Magazine Fall 2002
The Little Marias
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Fall 2002
The Little Marias
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Amid myriad instruments, the medical team works in coordinated fashion on the girls' separation.

Taking the remaining scalp, the team puts it through a special process, making cuts in the skin so it can be opened like a net stocking. "In this way, we are able to triple the amount of material we have," Kawamoto says. (On June 24, Kawamoto and his team had implanted two balloons into the twins' scalp that would, over time, slowly be filled with saline to help the girls grow more skin. A minor tear in the thin scalp forced doctors to remove one of the balloons, which made planning more complicated and delayed the surgery, but did not otherwise affect the outcome, Kawamoto says.)

"From what we saw in the operating room, we hope we have two normal girls," Kawamoto says later. "They're going to have funny haircuts, but that's probably no different than some of the undergraduates here at UCLA."

After the 22-hour surgery, the twins are side by side, in separate beds, for the first time.

At 5:40 a.m., August 6, more than 22 hours after they first entered the OR, the girls, their heads swaddled in dense, white bandages, are wheeled into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, or PICU, where a whole new group of doctors, nurses and medical staff take over their care.

As the PICU team begins monitoring the girls, some of the hours-long tension starts to fall away. Anesthesiologist Van de Wiele, who had kept a serious demeanor throughout the surgery, unveils an enormous smile. "Look!" she says, gesturing to one of the girls' beds and then the other. "I want to see the before and after," she adds, and then heads to a nearby computer to pull up photos of the twins posted on the Internet.

"I was just so amazed when we got to the PICU and saw them side by side in separate beds," Van de Wiele says. "It was so extraordinary, I had to go do a reality check."

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