TODAY   |  August 27, 2010

Once conjoined, girls now enjoy freedom

Seven years after conjoined twins Mackenzie and Macey Garrison underwent grueling surgery to be separated, the girls tell TODAY’s Natalie Morales that they enjoy gym class and horseback riding on their family’s farm in Iowa.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

NATALIE MORALES reporting: It is truly a medical miracle. Seven years ago, Mackenzie and Macey Garrison were conjoined twins bound at the pelvis and sharing a third leg in addition to a number of internal organs. But luckily for them, they were successfully separated after a grueling 24-hour operation at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles . People magazine recently profiled their happy life in Iowa along with their triplet sister Madeline and their parents Darla and Jeff Garrison . Good morning to all of you. How's everybody doing this morning?

Girls: Good.

Mr. JEFF GARRISON: Good.

Ms. DARLA GARRISON (Mother of Formerly Conjoined Twins): Good, thank you.

MORALES: And, Darla , I mean, you think back seven years ago, before the surgery, was there an alternative option for the girls ?

Ms. GARRISON: Really, it didn't appear so. I mean, of course, you know, there's a lot of testing to be done and to make sure that it was going to be the best thing for the girls , but it just -- the way they were conjoined it just seemed like there wasn't really an option.

MORALES: An option, yeah.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MORALES: And, Jeff , I mean, when you talk about the 24-hour surgery, then the recovery, how was that for them? They were so little at the time.

Mr. GARRISON: Well, the recovery was pretty good. I mean, Mackenzie within six weeks was home.

MORALES: Yeah.

Mr. GARRISON: And Macey had to stay a little bit longer because it took just a little, you know, about a month or so longer for her to heal up.

MORALES: But now they're normal, very active young girls .

Mr. GARRISON: Mm-hmm.

MORALES: They do just about everything, right, Darla ?

Ms. GARRISON: Mm-hmm. Yeah, they're very independent. They have chores, they take care of, you know, animals at home. And they're pretty normal seven-year-old girls .

MORALES: Yeah because you all moved out to a big farm, I understand, in Iowa ...

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MORALES: ...in 2003 . So they have how many -- how many dogs and horses and cats? What, is it 10 horses?

Girls: Yeah.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MORALES: Yeah?

Ms. GARRISON: Two dogs and I think four cats.

MORALES: You got a farm then all right.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MADELINE: Yep.

MORALES: Plus, you know, six kids total because you're raising the girls along with your three sons, too.

Ms. GARRISON: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

MORALES: So it's -- that's a pretty full house .

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah, it is a full house .

MORALES: And your situation, they're foster children , so you adopted them as babies, and looking at what a wonderful addition they've been to your family.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah, they were our foster kids for about 18 months, and then we had the opportunity to adopt them, so of course we, you know, jumped on that opportunity.

MORALES: Yeah.

Ms. GARRISON: We wanted them all along, so.

MORALES: And, girls , I see you love that candy necklace, right?

MACEY: Yeah, I'm trying to get it out of my thing!

Ms. GARRISON: Of course.

MORALES: Macey ...

Ms. GARRISON: It's all about the candy.

MORALES: And Katy Perry , I know you're big Katy Perry fans, right?

Ms. GARRISON: That's OK, baby.

Mr. GARRISON: It's not going to happen.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MORALES: How was that?

Mr. GARRISON: Just hold it right there.

Ms. GARRISON: Did you like the Katy Perry concert?

MACKENZIE: Yeah.

MADELINE: I did.

Ms. GARRISON: It was great, huh?

MORALES: Yeah.

Ms. GARRISON: We had fun.

MORALES: What's your favorite Katy Perry song? Madeline , do you have...

MADELINE: The last song.

MORALES: What is it, the last song?

Ms. GARRISON: "California Gurl"?

MORALES: "California Gurl"? No, that was the first song.

MADELINE: I like "California Gurl."

Ms. GARRISON: That was the first song.

MORALES: All right. And so you like to ride horses. Madeline , I know you like to ride horses, right?

MADELINE: Yeah.

MORALES: Are you showing your sisters how to get up there on the horse and ride along with them?

MADELINE: Yeah.

MORALES: Yeah? And what else do you like to do, Macey and Mackenzie ?

MACKENZIE: I like to -- I just learned how to ride a horse, so I ride it most of the time.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MORALES: Wow.

Ms. GARRISON: She just started wanting to ride.

Mr. GARRISON: Yeah.

Ms. GARRISON: She's been afraid, but we just told her if you want to ride, try.

MORALES: No fears.

Ms. GARRISON: We have a pony that's gentle and she this past weekend rode quite a bit actually.

MORALES: And what about you, Macey , what do you like to do?

MACEY: I like to do the same thing.

MORALES: Same thing, ride horses.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah. And sing and dance and color.

Mr. GARRISON: Sing and dance.

MORALES: And they're going into second grade soon, right?

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah. Yep , they're...

MACEY: We already am.

MORALES: Oh, you -- in what? You're in second -- you already started?

Mr. GARRISON: Yeah.

Ms. GARRISON: Already started, yeah.

Mr. GARRISON: Oh, yeah.

MADELINE: Yeah.

MORALES: What's your favorite subject?

MACKENZIE: P.E.

MORALES: P.E.

MACEY: P.E.

MORALES: Good for you . You're little athletes, I love that.

Ms. GARRISON: Oh, yeah, they love P.E.

MORALES: That's great.

Mr. GARRISON: Oh, yeah.

MADELINE: Yeah. I like P.E.

MORALES: You like P.E. , too?

MACEY: I like art better.

MORALES: You like art. Great. And I know this has really just been such a tremendous blessing to you all in the end.

Ms. GARRISON: Yes.

MORALES: You want to say something to the doctors who helped with this and to all the people who've been responsible in helping bring these girls into your life.

Ms. GARRISON: Oh, there are so many. you know, Children's Hospital Los Angeles was just wonderful. The doctors, the team, it was an enormous team, it was huge.

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GARRISON: I don't even know the number, but it was a lot of people. And the way they coordinated and just the way they took care of us...

Mr. GARRISON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GARRISON: ...and the family and the girls . We just really appreciate that. And then all of our family as well, our sons, who, you know, they're...

MORALES: Good big brothers .

Ms. GARRISON: ...they're -- yeah, they're really gracious in how they're patient, you know. And really they're the ones that have sacrificed...

MORALES: Yeah.

Ms. GARRISON: ...and had to give up time.

MORALES: Well...

Ms. GARRISON: So there's a lot of people, too many to thank, but they know who they are.

MORALES: You are an inspiration to parents...

Ms. GARRISON: Thank you.

MORALES: ...all over. You're truly heroes.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MORALES: So these girls have a wonderful example.

Ms. GARRISON: Yeah.

MORALES: Well, girls , we loved having you here this morning, all right? We got one more Katy Perry song just for you, OK?

Ms. GARRISON: All right.

MORALES: And I think she's still outside. Did you get her autograph yet? We'll make sure that happens, OK?