Two lives, one chance

Three-month-old Paisleigh (l) and Paislyn Martinez before their separation surgery, joined from breastbone to bellybutton.

When Paris Bryan had a routine ultrasound of her unborn daughters Paisleigh and Paislyn, the result was anything but routine. It showed the girls were conjoined twins, connected through the chest, liver, and heart. The news rocked Bryan and her fiancé, Ernesto Martinez.

“When I was pregnant with them, [medical professionals] were basically saying they weren’t sure [the twins] would make it,” Bryan says.

Residents of northern Minnesota, the couple was referred to the University of Minnesota Health Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center, which cares for mothers experiencing pregnancy complications. Among the most serious, the major arteries leading from Paislyn’s heart had, in effect, switched positions, and the normal opening into the heart’s right pumping chamber had failed to develop.

After delivery on February 10, doctors discovered that Paisleigh’s heart and kidneys were helping keep Paislyn alive by oxygenating and purifying her blood. But Paislyn’s weakness and the added burden on her sister’s organs made a prompt separation imperative.

On May 25, the twins were wheeled into an operating room in the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where a large team of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals waited. Nine hours later, the twins had been successfully separated. Thanks to a procedure a few days earlier, Paislyn’s heart could now work on its own, though further corrective surgery was needed. The twins currently remain hospitalized.

Explore more facets of Paisleigh and Paislyn’s journey:

• Read all about the twins and their unbreakable bond or read about and watch a video on the 3-D virtual imaging, other innovative technologies, and incomparable planning and coordination that helped lead to the twins’ successful separation. All three are accessible on the U of M Health Sciences page.

• In this video, you’ll meet the twins and their parents and follow their care team as they trek through uncharted territory to safely care for and separate the infant girls.

•  Medical resident Timothy Rauschke weighs in on what it was like to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, which began for him when he was still a medical student.