Separated twin leaves Wolfson Hospital for rehab

Conner Mirabal will work on motor development, eating from the mouth

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Formerly conjoined twin Conner Mirabal is moving on to the next phase of his recovery. He left Wolfson Children's Hospital for Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital for the first time Monday.

Conner and his brother Carter were born on Dec. 12, 2014, at UF Health Jacksonville.

They were successfully separated in May 2015 at Wolfson in a complex 12-hour surgery by Nemours Children's pediatric surgeons.

"It's very, very exciting that Conner gets to go to Brooks today," said Michelle Brantley, the twins' mother. "Not only will he get to see outside for the first time, but I'll be learning the whole experience for when he goes home. I'll be doing everything, and I can't wait to do that. I've been wanting to do that, you know? Actually be his mommy."

Brantley will work with Conner every day on his motor skills. His surgeon says they really want him to start eating by mouth. It's the moment a mother, a doctor and an entire hospital have been waiting for.

"The first thing a baby does when they're born is suck immediately and that's how they survive. Well, Conner never got a chance to learn that because for so long, there were so many other issues that prevented him from behaving like a normal baby," said Dr. Daniel Robie, chief of pediatric general surgery at Nemours.

Carter is scheduled to have surgery later this week to have a feeding tube placed in his belly and will continue to recover at Wolfson.

"We're certainly optimistic he'll be following his brother in the near future," Robie said.

The twins' parents hope to bring Carter home early next year. He may also require intense rehabilitation at Brooks before then. 

"He's actually been ready for quite some time," Robie said. "We were just trying to fine tune a few things, mainly make sure his intestines could handle the food we were giving him."

The boys were conjoined from the sternum to the lower abdomen by tissue, shared by their small intestine, and had individual livers and bile ducts that were fused together.

"It's been definitely a roller coaster," Brantley said. "There's been a lot of ups but a lot of downs."

Both boys will receive long-term outpatient therapies with Wolfson Children's Rehabilitation once they leave the inpatient setting of Brooks.

"I can't wait," Brantley said. "I can't wait for him to see outside for the first time. I can't wait for his facial expression for it. It's going to be cool."

That finally happened on Monday as Connor, wrapped tightly in a red jumper, saw the outside world surrounded by family and nurses emotional to see him go.

Doctors are working to increase Carter's weight and say that he too has a promising future ahead.

"Carter still has a little ways to go, but by this time next year he probably will be home," Brantley said. "I'm hoping, anyway. I'm just going to throw the biggest celebration ever. I'm waiting for that. I'm so excited."