When Ruby and Rosie Formosa were born joined at the abdomen and sharing part of an intestine, their parents were told the conjoined twins had a 25 per cent chance of survival.
Now, four years after an emergency operation to separate them saved their lives, they are preparing to go to school for the first time.
The four-year-olds, from Bexleyheath, in Kent, are said to be very excited about starting school and have been trying their school uniforms on in preparation.
It really is a big milestone, their mother, Angela Formosa, 35, told The Telegraph.
There were times when I never even thought I would see this day so for it to be here is overwhelming – it’s a really happy time.
The girls are so excited and I think the fact that they are going to their big sister Lily’s school is a huge thing too.
They wanted to be in the same class as they wanted to stay together so I asked the school if it was OK.
Four years ago, pregnant Angela went to King’s College Hospital for her 16-week scan and was told by doctors her twins were conjoined.
The rare medical condition accounts for just one in every 200,000 live births and Mrs Formosa said the news was a worst case scenario.
She said: I never even imagined that would be a possibility, it was so rare. I was really, really scared and really upset because at that point I was told there was a high possibility that the girls wouldn’t survive the pregnancy.
And if they did survive the pregnancy they might not survive the birth, then they might not survive surgery. They couldn’t tell what was connecting them.
I didn’t prepare to bring them home. It wasn’t until they were in hospital and they’d had their operation that my husband started painting the bedroom and getting everything ready for them.
The twins were delivered at University College Hospital in London by caesarean section when Mrs Formosa was 34 weeks pregnant – they weighed 5lb each.
Within a couple of hours of being born, they were taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) for emergency surgery because of an intestinal blockage.
Praising the staff at Gosh, Mrs Formosa added: They had a look and did scans and all sorts of tests and it wasn’t until they got into surgery that they saw what was going on. It was on-the-spot decisions as to what was to be done.
The surgeons were quite optimistic but there were obviously huge risks and you have to sign all those consent forms. When I held them for the last time before the surgery I thought, ‘Is this the last time I will cuddle my daughters?’ And then they were put to sleep and I thought, ‘Will they ever wake up?’
The operation to separate them took five hours and the girls were well enough to go home to Angela and their father, taxi-driver Daniel, 40, when they were just three weeks old.
Mrs Formosa said it feels like a million years ago since she was waiting for the girls to come out of their surgery.
And she said while they have more surgery ahead of them in the future, they are happy, healthy and excited about starting school.
They have met their teacher already, and won’t stop talking about her, Angela said. And they are looking forward to painting, anything messy, and they love reading.
She added: I think they do understand that they were once joined together. But I don’t think they realise yet how special that is.
Great Ormond Street Hospital is the leading centre in Europe for the care of conjoined twins, performing the first successful separation surgery in 1985. It has cared for 27 sets of conjoined twins since then.
The Formosa family are supporting the hospital’s charity through it’s Back to School Campaign – encouraging people to share their children’s back-to-school moments on social media to help raise money for the hospital.
Prof Paolo De Coppi, consultant paediatric surgeon at Gosh, said: We’re thrilled Rosie and Ruby are starting school this September. It’s always a joy to witness patients’ progress and to hear that they are reaching new milestones – this makes the job we do all the more rewarding.”
Tim Johnson, chief executive of Gosh’s Children’s Charity, added: We’re encouraging people from across the UK to share their back to school or first day at school moments and donate to help raise money for the hospital. Text SCHOOL to 70020 to give £3.
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