Amber McCullough is giving birth today to twins Hannah and Olivia knowing that one of her daughters can't survive: They are conjoined.
"I'm anxious and excited for Hannah and dreading what it means for Olivia," McCullough, 31, told USA TODAY.
McCullough's twins are joined at the chest, stomach, and hips, and share an abdomen, liver, and intestinal tract. They have separate hearts and kidneys, but even though a renowned fetal surgeon will be on hand to separate them once they are delivered by cesarean section, Olivia is not expected to survive the expected 8 to 12-hour surgery. Her heart has only one ventricle and is missing valves. Hannah's fate is less certain.
"I will get to see my girls very briefly after the delivery," McCullough told USA Today
"They will need to be intubated right away, but the doctors will hold them up real quick and I'll get a peek." She doesn't expect to be able to hold either of her daughters before surgery.
"If I had my way, I'd keep them together if they both could live," said the Twin Cities attorney and divorced single mom to a boy Tristin, aged 6. "But it's not possible. I wish it were. If they stay together, they'll both pass."
One in every 200,000 births results in conjoined twins. Up to 60 percent are stillborn, and 35 percent survive 24 hours.
When McCullough found out she was expecting twins at the beginning of her second trimester, she received conflicting advice on whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. But McCullough was determined to continue the pregnancy and to give her girls the best shot at life she can.
"The cards are stacked against us," she told USA Today
. "The reality right now is there is nothing they can do for Olivia. That is very hard to accept. People have asked me if I am ready for that. Course I'm not. Nobody is. I don't think you can prepare for losing a child.
"I just can't lose both," McCullough said. "There's a chance of saving one."
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