Conjoined twins recover after 26 hours of operation

Twin sisters Kendra and Maliyah Herrin were taken from the operating room after 26 hours of surgery in which doctors separated the 4-year-olds and reconstructed their internal organs.

The girls were born in a perpetual hug, their bodies fused at the midsection. They shared a liver, a kidney, a pelvis, one set of legs and part of their intestines.

The surgery, while complicated, did not present any major surprises for the team of six surgeons, two anesthetists, two urologists, one radiologist and more than 25 nurses and medical technicians, said Dr. Rebecka Meyers, chief pediatric surgeon at Primary Children's Medical Center.

But the days ahead will be tough, she said. The girls are breathing with the assistance of ventilators, their bodies swollen from the hours of surgery and at risk for dangerous infections. Surgeons gave each girl one leg, split their liver and intestines and reconstructed their bladders and their pelvic rings.

Kendra kept their one functioning kidney, while Maliyah will be put on dialysis and receive one of her mother's kidneys in a transplant operation in three to six months.

Parents Jake and Erin Herrin, who also have a daughter, 6, and twin 14-month-old boys, had an emotional reunion with their daughters, the AP reports.

The operation was believed to be the first time surgeons separated conjoined twins with a shared kidney.

Matlak was the first to cradle Kendra after separation, lifting her gently from the operating table to move her to another room for reconstruction surgery.

Matlak said he feared the gaping separation wound on the girls' bodies would be difficult to close. But tissue expanders placed in the twins weeks ago to grow their skin and muscles, combined with plastic surgery, made the job easier than expected, he said.

The twins are expected to remain in intensive care for a week. They'll be in hospital for at least a month before doctors consider sending them home.