These adorable twin boys are less than 2 years old, but they’re already miraculously eight months past a heart-pounding surgery to separate them, because they were born conjoined at the head. Now, as their health improves, their family is excited about soon being able to welcome them home from the hospital.
In March 2015, Nicole and Christian McDonald found out they were expecting a second baby. When Nicole went for an ultrasound, the couple discovered they were going to instead be adding twins to their family of three, since they already had a 2-year-old son. Shortly after the couple left the doctor’s office, they received a phone call to come back. Another ultrasound needed to be performed. The second ultrasound changed the couple’s life forever.
“I was informed that I was pregnant with craniopagus twins, which in normal language means twins who are joined at the head.”
At first, Nicole and Christian were terrified, but as Nicole wrote on their GoFundMepage, she pulled it together and started researching people who could help her twin boys once they were born. On Sept. 9, 2015, at 11:11 p.m., she underwent an emergency C-section, and the boys were born.
Immediately, the twins were whisked away to the NICU, where they stayed for some time while they grew stronger. The boys, Jadon, which means “God has heard,” and Anias, which means “God has answered,” fought tough battles for the first four months they spent in the hospital. The McDonalds dreamed of holding little Jadon and Anias separately in their arms, but they would have to wait until they were separated.
In October 2016, the twins underwent a 27-hour surgery to separate them.
It was a success. In total, 40 people, led by Dr. James Goodrich, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Montefiore, assisted with the surgery. Even the recovery was considered a huge success. “Nine weeks is an exceptionally short time for what they underwent and it exceeds all of our hopes and expectations,” Dr. Oren Tepper, a plastic surgeon on the team, told TODAY.
This clip shows the boys nine weeks after their surgery:
But they still had other battles to fight. During their time in rehab, they contracted multiple infections, and Anias suffered seizures. Life was anything but easy for the McDonalds, though at least they had each other.
In a Facebook post shortly after the twins’ surgery, Nicole wrote, “Finally reunited…there are no words. Just lots of love.”
Throughout the entire process, Nicole has kept family, friends, and well-wishers up to date by posting updates on Facebook, but she writes that there was a time she avoided writing anything. “Frankly, the last few months have built a wall of discouragement around me, trial by trial, brick by brick,” she wrote in April. “I haven’t had the heart to update because I knew I would not be able to break down the wall and provide encouragement through my discouragement.”
Nicole went into detail on Anias and Jadon’s conditions. Jadon was dealing with infections on his skull, and a month earlier, Anias had to be admitted to the PICU. The twins had also caught a cold, which led to many complications for both. But the boys soon recovered, and in May, Nicole decided she’d had enough of the hospital.
Nicole decided it was time to speak up and ask the family’s social worker if it was feasible if they could continue the recovery at home.
In a Facebook post on June 16, Nicole described an interaction with one of the twins’ doctors, “Today, one of the doctors came in and said that at their weekly meeting they brought up the question ‘When is it time for the McDonald boys to go home?’ She said, ‘I don’t want to scare you with this concept but what do you think about moving in this direction?’”
She continued, “Oh man, home…I honestly can’t even fathom this…a true dream come true. I’ve been praying to God a lot about this lately, putting the process in his hands…he still hears, he still answers… Home. Wow.”
Throughout the McDonalds’ journey, a documentary crew followed the family around, documenting the surgery to the boys’ recovery process in rehab. The hour-long documentary premiered on CNN on June 23 at 10 p.m.