TODAY   |  April 16, 2014

Parents look ahead as twins born conjoined head home

The parents of nine-month-old twins born conjoined from their chest to their stomach, and their surgeon, sit down with TODAY to talk about the babies coming home from the hospital, and the challenging road ahead. NBC’s Janet Shamlian reports.

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>>> this is a special day for the family of -month-old twins who were born joined at the chest. emmitt and owen ezel are finally leaving the hospital today. first, nbc's janet shamlian with their story.

>> reporter: to look at them now, you'd never know what owen and emmitt ezel have been through. the 9-month-old twins were born conjoined from their chest to their belly, sharing a liver and intestines. at just a month old in a risky operation, a team of surgeons successfully separated the boys in a nine-hour operation that required the touch and go separation of a major blood vessel. and now, for a family that's been through so much, the biggest milestone yet, the boys are leaving the hospital.

>> i'm so excited. i'm shaking, i'm so excited. we've been waiting for months for this. and it's finally here.

>> reporter: jenny and dave ezel have been all but leaving in the neonatal intensive care unit in dallas. even christmas was there. it's been emotionally and physically draining, they say, and worth every minute.

>> when this is over, we're going to have four boys, you know? we're going to be a family and it's going to be great. at the time, we talked about it, but i couldn't envision it. i couldn't see it. but i knew we had to keep talking about it. but now i can finally see it.

>> reporter: the couple has been keeping friends updated through a blog, noting major hurdles the boy have overcome, like when they started breathing on their own. they're still being fed through tubes in their stomachs. for that reason, their next stop is an inpatient rehab facility. even that is celebration worthy, and they're planning one here today. for two little boys , it's one giant step closer to home. for "today," janet shamlian , nbc news, houston.

>> well, jenny and dave ezel are with us exclusively from the medical city children's hospital. along with them, dr. tom renard, the lead surgeon who separated emmitt and owen . a great day for you all. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> when you think about this road you've been on from when you were pregnant, 19 weeks, being told you were going to have twins who were conjoined, to the separation surgery, to now nine months after their birth, they get to leave the hospital, can you even put it into words?

>> it is an indescribable feeling. it's been such a long journey , and we have finally arrived. we're finally ready to get them one step closer to home, and we can't wait.

>> and dave , this next step is going to rehab, where as i understand it, part of it is teaching you parents how to take care of them so they can ultimately go home. what's involved in that and are you nervous about it?

>> yes, we're absolutely nervous about it. we have to learn how to basically be their 24-hour nursing care , as well as their parents. i think the parenting part is going to be the easy part. we are going to be trained on how to take care of trachs and how to change them out. how to manage their nutrition and g tubes. it's going to be a journey.

>> and by the way, as we talk to you, we're getting to see a live shot of little emmitt, who's ready for his close-up and ready to get out of the hospital. dave , i'm sorry, what were you going to say?

>> i was just going to say, fortunately, we're not going into it blind. we've already gotten a lot of training along those lines since they've been here at the hospital. so it's -- i mean, it's not like we're jumping into this thing without any knowledge.

>> let me bring dr. renard in here, he's your superstar surgeon. doctor, as i understand it, this was the first surgery of this kind you had ever done. and they had already heard from many doctors that this can't be done. what were you feeling as you started to do this and when you realized it's going to be successful?

>> well, it's a big event, or complex operation procedure, undertaking. and the group that i'm involved in is -- fortunately, had the opportunity to separate 12 sets before. so we have some institutional knowledge , so we weren't going into it without any kind of background, but it's been just a wonderful opportunity. and we feel very privileged and honored to be a part of the whole process.

>> and i know that jenny and dave would love to say thank you to you and to the nurses. how has the care been for these two precious little ones?

>> it's been amazing. they have treated our babies -- well, and us, for that matter, like family. they have been there through the hard times , and through the happy times . they've laughed with us. they've cried with us. they've encouraged us. and they've been so supportive. it's been a pleasure having them be a part of this process for us.

>> and i know it's a long journey, but we're so happy to share this milestone with all of you. best of luck to you, and to owen and emmitt and your two older boys at home. i know you've got your hands full. so thank you for being here this morning.

>> it's our pleasure, thank you.