A set of conjoined twins made medical history in 1955, when they were separated and both survived. Now, Lillian Matthews-Hollins and Linda Matthews-Wilson are sharing their incredible story with NBC News and TODAY.
Lillian and Linda, now 67, were born vaginally at home in rural Mississippi. This was before ultrasound, and Lillian and Linda’s parents, who already had six children, were expecting a routine delivery.
It wasn’t until their mother began pushing that her physician realized something was very wrong. That something turned out to be two baby girls who were connected from the sternum to the navel, and shared a liver.
At roughly five weeks old, Lillian and Linda were successfully separated. The odds of both newborns surviving was “probably zero,” Linda told NBC’s Sam Brock during a joint interview with Lillian that aired on TODAY March 3.
While chatting with Sam, Linda and Lillian held hands and finished each other's sentences. The women, who are both teachers, said that they find comfort in physical proximity.
“It’s just natural, you know?” Linda said. “We can be going through something and we just laugh and talk.”
"Oh gosh, half of the time we spend laughing," Lillian said.
Together, Linda and Lillian have seven children and 16 grandchildren. But decades ago, Lillian experienced a devastating loss.
“She was pregnant. And I remember, I just started feeling pain and I started feeling just weird. Just strange,” Linda said. “And within 10 minutes, her husband called and said, “She just had a miscarriage.’”
“That was probably one of the toughest times,” Linda said.
In January, twin girls AmieLynn and JamieLynn of Saginaw, Texas, were successfully separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The procedure took 11 hours and involved 25 medical professionals.
AmieLynn and JamieLynn, like the Matthews twins, had the same liver.
Approximately 70% of conjoined twins are female, and most are stillborn, according to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Conjoined twins successfully separated in rare surgeryJan. 26, 202302:32
CORRECTION (March 4, 2023 at 9:34 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this digital story indicated in a headline that the Matthews sisters in 1955 were the first conjoined twins successfully separated; however, a procedure led by Dr. Lester Dragstedt in Chicago earlier that year successfully separated another set of conjoined twins.