JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Wolfson Children's Hospital performed a historic procedure Friday that will change the lives of two local baby boys forever: the first of two surgeries to separate conjoined twins, Conner and Carter Mirabal.
The boys were born three weeks ago, connected at the belly, sharing a small intestine. The boys each have a liver, but the two organs are attached.
The boys survived Friday's surgery, which took about three and half hours and split their small intestines. It was the first surgery of it's kind in Northeast Florida, and doctors told the family the boys were very strong and doing well.
In about six months, their livers will be separated and doctors will separate the boys as well.
"It's all worth it; it's going to be worth it in the end," said Jasmine Mirabal, the boys' aunt. "It's worth it now, but it's really going to be worth it when they're home."
Michelle Brantley and the twins' father, Bryan Mirabal, found out she was pregnant with the boys when she was four months along. A week later, they were told the boys were conjoined. All this came just eight months after Brantley gave birth to the couple's other son, Gage, who's now 13 months old.
"I don't think it set in right away," Jasmine Mirabal said. "A lot of us were in denial, you know, even though it was there, it was happening. We kind of pushed ourselves away from it. At the same time, we couldn't do that because it was happening and we had to deal with it in the best way we could."
Jasmine Mirabal said twins don't run in the couple's immediate family.
"It wasn't a plan to get pregnant, her birth control failed," Jasmine Mirabal said. "But it wasn't a mistake. It was meant to happen one way or another. And we are beyond grateful that it did happen because they are just so precious. Their love is part of what gets us through this."
Jasmine Mirabal said Wolfson Children's Hospital has been outstanding, bringing them breakfast and lunch and checking on them throughout the day.
"They're our miracle babies," Jasmine Mirabal said. "They really are. We weren't promised their lives. God gave them to us. As crazy as this has all been, it's not a burden to us, it's a blessing. We wouldn't have it any other way. We really wouldn't."
She said Friday morning the twins were looking good. They've gained weight since they were born three weeks ago. Their eyes are open, and they've been able to cry now because breathing tubes were taken out.
Jasmine Mirabal said it will all be worth it when they can take the boys home.
"We hope they're separated successfully and we get them out of this hospital. Get them home, you know?," Jasmine Mirabal said. "It's hard. We don't get to hold them. We get to touch them. Michelle was able to hold them once during their baptism, but other than that I mean we just want them in our arms, we want them home."
After the second surgery, the boys will have to heal, so it will be a few months after that before they can officially go home.?