Addy and Lily Altobelli, who were born connected at the abdomen and chest, are still getting used to their new normal at home after spending the first year of their lives in the hospital, their parents tell Baby AZ Today. Frightened parents ‘Give It To God’ as conjoined twins are separated in 10-hour surgery.
The parents of the conjoined twins that were separated, Maggie and Dom Altobelli, faced so much uncertainty with their baby girls. Questions with no sure answers riddled the couple from the moment they learned a shared stomach joined Addy and Lily together. When Maggie and Dom Altobelli first learned they were expecting conjoined twins after her 20-week ultrasound, she thought to herself, “that’s all right, we’ll just separate them.” “Little did I know what the obstacles were in doing that,” Maggie says.
So, Maggie and Dom did the best thing they could do. They surrendered it all to the Lord and relied on God to see them through the entire process. And He did just that!
Doctor Makes Shocking Discovery
At her 20-week pregnancy check-up, Maggie expected to discover the gender of her baby — singular. But to her surprise, she found out she would give birth to twin girls. However, Maggie was in for a much bigger shock when the ultrasound revealed something her doctor had never before seen. She was carrying conjoined twins. The couple never anticipated a situation like this. But they chose to trust God’s plan even if it looked different from theirs.
The couple agreed to have the conjoined twins separated after their birth. This meant leaving their home in Chicago and working with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) since the doctors there had experience in separating conjoined twins. But neither Maggie nor Dom fully comprehended the long and difficult road that lay ahead.
Preparing For Separation
First came a battery of tests to see if the separation was even possible. If the babies shared a heart, doctors wouldn’t even be able to try. Even once doctors confirmed they could attempt a separation surgery with the conjoined twins, they warned Maggie and Dom Altobelli it would be very risky. It was terrifying to have no sense of what was going to happen to their baby girls. But Maggie and Dom decided to take it a “step at a time” and trust God. In fact, they nicknamed their conjoined twins Faith and Hope during the pregnancy. “They’ve reached a new chapter,” Maggie recalls her husband saying to her. “Let’s call them Addy Hope and Lily Faith.”
At 34-weeks, Maggie delivered Addy and Lily Altobelli. And though the birth of the girls overjoyed Maggie and Dom, the conjoined twins immediately began facing complications.
Because the girls shared a chest, when Lily, the larger twin, got upset, it created breathing problems for Addy.”If Lily got upset … she would (control) the breathing,” Maggie explained. “There were times where Addy had coded because she couldn’t breathe because Lily would get upset.”
Before the conjoined twins could be separated, they needed time to grow and receive treatments preparing them for their upcoming surgery. And all Maggie and Dom could really do, aside from loving on their babies, was pray for a positive outcome while allowing the doctors to take over.
Addy And Lily Altobelli Undergo Surgery
Not long before the conjoined twins turned one, the day finally arrived to have them separated. And though so many things could go wrong, Maggie and Dom fully surrendered to God’s will. The intense procedure took doctors 10 hours to perform, with Maggie and Dom getting updates every two hours. Then, finally, they received word the operation was successful and complete.
“I just fell to the floor,” Maggie said. “Everybody was just crying and sobbing. There was so much joy.”
At the time, Dr. John Waldhausen called the surgery “as complex and as difficult as anything we do or have done,” TODAY reported, citing his interview on Dateline.
Conjoined Twins That Were Separated Go Home
Addy and Lily Altobelli spent the next two months in the hospital recovering until given the green light for release. At last, the conjoined twins that were separated headed home to Chicago with their parents. The babies continue to receive multiple types of therapy — physical, occupational, and speech. And though they currently use feeding tubes, they are practicing eating on their own. And after enduring and overcoming so many challenges, their futures are bright.
“This is our journey. It’s a very special one in many ways,” explained Maggie Altobelli. “These girls are going to live long, healthy lives. It’s pretty miraculous and unbelievable that we’re living this life.”
Finding peace in the storm isn’t easy. But if we can surrender our hearts to God’s will, just as we see with these conjoined twins that were separated, there is no situation He can’t use for good!