Mommy Mash Up: Cojoined Twins Share A Heart

April 28, 2014  |  

It usually occurs once every 200,000 births – but when cojoined twins who share a heart are born, a hard decision must be made. To separate or not to separate?

Newborn twins Andrew and Garatte Stancombe will be staying together.

Pennsylvania parents Michelle Van Horn and Kody Stancombe have decided to keep their twins joined after doctors told them that the separation could mean losing one or both of the boys.

Andrew and Garatte Stancombe share a heart and liver, and are conjoined from the breastbone to belly button.

“They were born together, they can stay together,” Van Horne, 25, of Indiana, Pa.  told Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV“I think it would hurt us to lose one and have the other.”

The boys were born on April 10 at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, Pa.

The overall survival rate of conjoined twins is between five and 25 percent. According to CNN, no separation surgery has ever been successful on twins that share a heart.

About 33 percent of conjoined twins are connected similarly (breastbone to belly button), but in most of these births twins rarely share a heart. The phenomenon of conjoined twins occurs when a woman produces one egg that does not separate completely after it is fertilized. If the egg had separated completely the mother would give birth to identical twins.

Andrew and Garatte are doing well so far. They are doing all the things healthy babies do (sleeping, crying and eating).

Van Horn has taken a leave from her job at a personal care home to care for the twins herself during this vulnerable time. Her sister has set up a fundraising site to help pay for food and clothing for the twins.

“For me, (the best part) is being able to hold them and hear them cry and know they’re here with me,” Van Horne told CNN’s affiliate WTAE. “Just seeing their eyes open and listening to them is just amazing to me.”

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