Human Interest

Former conjoined twin gives birth to daughter at same hospital that performed separation surgery

twins

Twenty-one years ago, Charity Lincoln Gutierrez-Vazquez underwent surgery that successfully separated her from her conjoined twin, Kathleen, and opened up a lifetime of new possibilities for her that many had believed were impossible.

One of her biggest dreams became a reality on August 12 with the birth of her daughter, Alora, at the same hospital where she was born and endured the 31-hour surgery to separate her from her twin sister as babies. Gutierrez-Vazquez described giving birth to her daughter at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle as a “full circle moment.” 

“It feels like full circle since my mom had us here and everything,” Gutierrez-Vazquez told PEOPLE.

“When I think about this hospital’s history in my family, it makes me thankful for hospitals and medical teams that take amazing care of their patients and families,” she added.

TODAY reports that Gutierrez-Vazquez and her twin sister Kathleen were born attached from breastbone to pelvis, each with one leg and another fused leg. They were separated in an extremely risky and complex surgery in 2000 at seven month of age by a team of 30 doctors, nurses, and support staff. Their journey made national headlines and was captured by Dateline

READ: Rare conjoined twins successfully separated: ‘It’s all in God’s hands’

Dr. John Waldhausen, who performed the surgery, also assisted Gutierrez-Vazquez with her pregnancy, referring her to his colleague, Dr. Edith Cheng, to oversee the pregnancy and delivery. Alora was born at nearly 34 weeks via C-section. She spent some time in the NICU for supplemental oxygen, but otherwise mom and baby were healthy.

“When you’re involved with an operation like that, you’re really hoping that you can create a whole lifetime for somebody,” Waldhausen said on TODAY. “And then to see this happening, this really comes full circle, so this is a great day for all of us.”

Waldhausen called the birth of Alora a “medical triumph.” But, for Gutierrez-Vazquez, it was an answer to her prayers. 

“God’s really blessed me with all the doctors in my life and everything,” she told TODAY. “I think it’s important that people see that we’re still doing good, and living the best life we can.”

Alora hasn’t gotten the opportunity to meet her Aunt Kathleen in person yet, but they did see each other over FaceTime. 

“My sister Kathleen was very excited,” Gutierrez-Vazquez said. “She loves being an aunt to my older sister’s kids, and she is thankful for another niece to love on.”

Stories of conjoined twins who beat the odds and went on to lead happy and healthy lives abound. Last year, Live Action News reported that formerly conjoined twins, Carter and Conner Mirabal, who survived a 15-hour separation surgery, had just graduated from preschool and were headed to kindergarten. The milestone was a significant one for the boys’ parents as well who experienced overwhelming pressure to abort their sons and were criticized for their decision to choose life. 

Live Action News also reported last year on Abigail and Micaela Bachinskiy — conjoined twins who were attached at the head and successfully separated in a “landmark surgery” at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento.

These stories share a common thread: they are a testament to the strength and resiliency of the human spirit, and ability to defy the odds in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  

Gutierrez-Vazquez explained it well when she told PEOPLE, “God answers prayers, so don’t lose hope in your dreams. Don’t assume the worst just because your situation is different than other people’s. You can thrive in the life that you were given.”

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