Erin and Jake made the decision to let doctors separate their conjoined twin daughters when they were 4 years old. "If we could keep them like this forever, I think we would," Jake says. "But they're going to get bigger and it's going to be harder for them."
Erin and Jake tried to prepare their daughters for life after surgery. For the first time in their lives, Kendra and Maliyah would be able to be alone. "We talked to them for years about it, what it was going to be like," Erin says. "I think we take for granted being able to go in separate rooms and being able to be by ourselves."
They brought Kendra and Maliyah to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The first step in preparing for the separation was to implant 17 balloons under the girls' skin to stretch it out enough to perform the operation.
Six weeks later, a team of eight surgeons, 16 nurses and two anesthesiologists, led by Dr. Rebecca Meyers, performed the 26-hour surgery. Doctors say this high-risk procedure—separating conjoined twins who shared a kidney—had never been done before. Everyone was anxious.
After 16 hours, Erin and Jake got the news. Doctors had successfully separated Kendra and Maliyah. They were starting to reconstruct their once single body into two new ones.