Many parents would agree that the “terrible twos” are an age to be dreaded. However, one family can’t wait for the tantrums and tears. After all, they were told that their little girls probably wouldn’t survive one year, let alone two.
Misty and Curtis Oglesby were five months pregnant before they even found out they were expecting. All in one moment, then, their lives were turned upside down. And their happiness soon turned to delight when they discovered they were expecting twins, then to despair upon learning that their babies were conjoined.
“We found out we were having twins and that they were conjoined all on the same day at the same appointment. I was 20 weeks along,” Misty said in an October 2016 YouTube video posted by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “The scariest part of it was the unknown,” she added.
According to the University of Maryland, conjoined twins occur once in about 200,000 births. While identical twins happen when a fertilized egg splits, conjoined twins occur if that split is not complete. And, curiously, conjoined sisters have a higher survival rate than conjoined brothers.
And although conjoined twins can be attached to each other in a dozen of ways, they are most commonly found attached at the chest. These twins, known as thoracopagus twins, will often share the same heart, making it extremely difficult for both children to survive surgical separation.
Unfortunately, scans showed that the Oglesbys’ twins were joined at the chest, and experts predicted that they would only have a five to 25 percent chance of survival. Understandably, the couple were overcome with emotions. “It was such a shock,” Misty admitted in the YouTube video.
However, before the couple even had time to get their heads around their predicament, Misty was taken to hospital with high blood pressure. And it was then, just 31 weeks into her pregnancy, that she was forced to deliver her babies. On October 27, 2014, Misty and Curtis welcomed their daughters Shylah and Selah.
Now that the twins had arrived, though, the doctors could better assess their situation. And fortunately, although the twins did share a liver, they had their own intestines, lungs and hearts. So the experts at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center made a plan.
And the meticulously detailed surgical plan took three months to formulate and practice, with every incision coordinated to give Shylah and Selah the best possible chance of survival. Additionally, if she survived the separation, Selah would need open-heart surgery to correct a heart defect.
But since the 1950s, survival rates of separated twins have improved. And since they only shared a liver, which can regenerate, Shylah and Selah had a good chance. As her twins went into surgery on January 28, 2015, however, Misty still had concerns.
“I felt like I was giving my world to them, and we were not sure if we would get them back,” she said in the YouTube clip. “I knew it was necessary, but it was very, very difficult. They were perfect. To me, they were perfect, you know, they were my sweet, precious little girls.”
She needn’t have worried, though, as the daring six-hour surgery went as planned. “When we made that final cut to completely separate the twins, there was a sense of success and happiness – not just for the entire team, but more importantly for the parents who had worked with us so closely as a team for months to get to that point,” Dr. Foong-Yen Lim, surgical director of the Cincinnati Fetal Center, said after the operation.
The girls recovered well, and after over a year at the hospital, they could finally go home to Franklyn County, Indiana. And while they would still need to be monitored by medical professionals, essentially they were able to live like normal babies. “I’m still hopeful that, you know, they will continue to thrive. Curtis and Misty are doing an awesome job caring for the babies,” Dr. Lim said in the YouTube video.
And Dr. Lim’s hopes for Shylah and Selah came true. In October 2016, in fact, the girls celebrated their second birthday. Indeed, they have progressed so well that even their own mother has admitted that she is “in awe” of them.
Moreover, in an October 2016 blog for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Misty explained that Shylah was a “talkative, outgoing diva” who has recently had her feeding tube removed. Plus, she also praised Selah’s determination in overcoming her heart issues and achieving a number of milestones.
The proud mom additionally described the girls’ second birthday as a big celebration for the whole family. “[It’s] a victory of how far they’ve come and a celebration of the bright future ahead of them,” she wrote in the blog post. “What I’m most excited about is celebrating the day just like any other family would – with our relatives and closest friends outside of the hospital. It feels so very ‘normal.’ A sentiment that I cherish.”
“So here we are, two years later, with two thriving toddlers,” she continued. “It’s like having two little miracles living in our house. I’m so thankful for the second chance they have been given and for the opportunity to love and appreciate the independent little people that they’re becoming.”
“When I think about it, in a way, today feels like their first birthday,” Misty added. “After all, it is a birthday of firsts. Their first birthday at home with friends and family. The first birthday in which they’ll be able to eat cake. The first birthday where they’re mobile and able to get around (and open presents!).”
Indeed, with all the progress they’ve made in their first two years, the future looks incredibly bright for Shylah and Selah. And even though they might start throwing toddler tantrums, their dad Curtis couldn’t be happier. “We always prayed and asked that they, we get out of the hospital and they, you know, get to be two years old and drive us nuts, and that’s coming true,” he said in the YouTube clip.
And their mom hopes that their tough beginnings will inspire them to take life by the horns. “I just want them to grow up and explore this world that’s around them and live life to its fullest, because they’ve been given the opportunity that we weren’t sure that they would have,” she said.