"Although this has been a long journey, with many ups and downs, Riley and I are thrilled to see how well the girls are doing today," said their mother

It has been five months since formerly conjoined twins Abby and Erin Delaney underwent a successful separation surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on June 6. The sisters, who were conjoined at the head, are now able to sit up independently, roll over, crawl and be held separately in their parents’ arms.

Born in CHOP’s Garbose Family Service Delivery Unit, the 15-month-old girls, from Mooresville, North Carolina, have spent their entire lives living in the hospital, until recently when Erin was discharged. Abby still remains in the hospital, according to CHOP.

Approximately 30 individuals were part of the complex 11-hour surgery, making it the 24th surgery of it’s kind for the hospital.

Abby and Erin Delaney
| Credit: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

“Although this has been a long journey, with many ups and downs, Riley and I are thrilled to see how well the girls are doing today,” Heather Delaney, the twins’ mother, said in a statement. “We are so grateful for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia team, and for the support and encouragement that our families, our friends and the community have given us during this long journey.”

Reconstructive surgeon Dr. Jesse Taylor said that this was one of the earliest separations of craniopagus — the least common type of conjoined twins — ever recorded.

“We know that children heal better and faster the younger they are, therefore our goal for Erin and Abby was separation as soon as possible with minimum number of surgeries,” he was quoted saying in the press release.

Credit: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Heather and her husband Riley were first told that their twins were conjoined at the top of their heads during a prenatal ultrasound. They were immediately referred to the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP for prenatal care and delivery.

Abby and Erin Delaney and Heather and Riley Delaney
| Credit: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

On July 24, 2016, the girls were delivered 10 weeks premature — each weighing 2 pounds and 1 ounce — in a unit for mothers carrying fetuses with known birth defects. Over the next five months they had several more surgeries as steps toward separation.

“The ability to plan and carry out this type of surgery is testament to the skill and expertise available here at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” said N. Scott Adzick, MD, CHOP’s Surgeon-in-Chief. “I’m extremely proud of Dr. Heuer, Dr. Taylor and the entire CHOP team, and I’m thrilled that Erin and Abby have a promising future because their courageous parents entrusted their daughters to our care.