Amber McCullough, a single mother of one son from Minnesota, has given birth via C-section at Children’s Hospital Colorado to twin girls conjoined at the chest, stomach, and pelvis. But following surgery to separate them, one of the girls did not survive.
During the second trimester, McCullough learned that her daughters, named Hannah and Olivia, were conjoined. She told NBC News in Colorado that if she had things her way, she would keep her daughters conjoined so that Olivia, who had a non-functioning heart, could survive. But that would have meant death for both of them. The twins shared an abdomen, liver, and intestinal tract. They had separate kidneys and hearts, but Olivia’s heart was missing valves and only had one ventricle. Olivia died after the five-hour surgery to separate the girls.
Although it was risky and the odds were not in their favor, McCullough told NBC News that she wanted to give both of her daughters a shot at life. “Sacred things are always worth fighting for no matter what,” she said. “Born, unborn, disabled, able-bodied. You name it. It’s one thing you’ll never regret.”
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, conjoined twins occur in 1 of every 200,000 births and up to 60% are stillborn, while 35% only live for about a day.
McCullough wasn’t expecting to hold the girls after delivery, but would see them momentarily before they were taken for separation surgery.
“I’m absolutely dreading it because it’s Olivia’s last day,” she had told NBC News days before delivery. “But hopefully we’ll have Hannah pull through.”
Post-surgery, the NY Daily News reported that Hannah was in stable but critical condition.
McCullough is grateful for the support of her friends and family, as well as prayers from everyone, including strangers. Her friends in Minnesota planned a baby shower for her celebrating the lives of both girls, and McCullough headed to Colorado with a suitcase full of stuffed animals and baby outfits.
Having spent eight years in the United States Army, McCullough learned a thing or two about coming through for and standing by other people. She told NBC News before the delivery, “You’re not supposed to leave a fallen soldier even if they’ve passed. I can’t do that with my kids.”
In an update since the surgery, The Daily Mail shares McCullough’s most recent pictures of her surviving daughter, Hannah, along with prayer requests and an update:
She is very much aware who her mommy is. She hears my voice and looks for me. The nurses can tell me the response in her vitals when she sees me and hears me.