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Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata share an April birthday, but it’s Feb. 17 that marks an epic new beginning in their lives. One year ago, doctors separated the formerly conjoined twins during a marathon surgery at Texas Children's Hospital.
“We were up almost 48 hours and didn’t know what was going to happen… we were praying for a miracle,” their mom Elysse Mata recalled. “(Today,) they’re phenomenal, strong. They’re little fighters.”
“It’s surreal,” added John Eric Mata, the girls’ dad. “For me, they’ve far exceeded expectations.”
Now almost 2, Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith are both at home with their parents in Littlefield, Texas. Knatalye is starting to walk and learning to eat by mouth. "She's everywhere," her mom said.
Meanwhile, Adeline — who has had more health issues than her sister and had to stay in the hospital longer — is progressing towards getting off ventilator support and breathing on her own.
They were both back in the hospital recently for follow-up check-ups with specialists.
“The girls are both doing so well,” said Dr. Darrell Cass, pediatric surgeon and co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center. “They are both making steady progress.”
The twins were born prematurely in 2014 joined at the chest and sharing their lungs, diaphragm, liver, intestines, colon and pelvis. Early on, doctors put their chances of survival at 20 percent, which inspired their parents to choose the middle names of Faith and Hope, according to a family Facebook page.
Last February, a team that included 12 surgeons, six anesthesiologists and eight surgical nurses separated the girls during an operation that lasted 26 hours.
A couple of months later, the girls celebrated their first birthday with a "Frozen"-themed party in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.
Knatalye was released from Texas Children's in May 2015, and when Adeline followed last June, the family was finally together under one roof.
There have been more surgeries since then and more to come. Knatalye will be back on the operating table this summer so doctors can remove metal struts that were used to stabilize her rib cage and formally close her chest wall, Cass said.
Both girls undergo physical, occupational and speech therapy twice a week. Adeline also receives nurse care 24/7, her parents said. Despite their extraordinary beginnings, the twins are becoming typical sisters.
“They’re just branching out and growing into individuals and separate personalities. They don’t like each other half the time,” their mom noted with a laugh.
“I’m just excited about the next years and what they’re going to do. Hopefully, they do big things in life.”