After having risky separation surgery, conjoined twins Mackenzie and Macey Garrison are now living normal lives
When conjoined twins Mackenzie and Macey Garrison were born, doctors fought to keep them alive. Bound at the pelvis and sharing some organs, the twins were successfully separated nine months later after a 24-hour operation.
Now, despite each only having one leg, the seven-year-old girls are enjoying life at home with their healthy triplet sister Madeline and adoptive parents Darla and Jeff Garrison.
"If they didn’t have only one leg each you’d never guess what they’ve been through.”
Speaking in a UK exclusive from their home in Iowa, US, Darla, 40 says: “They walk with a crutch, but they never stand still, and they’re always talking and laughing. If they didn’t have only one leg each you’d never guess what they’ve been through.”
Conjoined twins form when a fertilised egg splits, but fails to separate completely, and occur in around one in 200,000 births.
The girls were born in December 2002 weighing just 2lbs 2oz each and were abandoned by their drug-addict mother at birth. But within weeks, they were fostered by housewife Darla and construction worker Jeff, 50, who’ve fostered 10 times previously.
Darla says: “We had no idea what to expect – they just needed someone to love them. We had Madeline when she was four days old and Macey and Mackenzie came to us at four weeks old.”
The twins had a colostomy bag that needed frequent changing, were in pain from the tissue expanders implanted in their backs and abdomens in preparation for surgery and had to wear two outfits sewn together.
Darla admits: “I hated taking them out because people stared. It was heartbreaking.”
In September 2003, an 80-strong medical team performed a risky 24-hour operation. Darla says: “The operation was so long, and they were so tiny, there was a danger they’d die on the operating table.”
“I hated taking them out because people stared. It was heartbreaking.”
Because the twins’ shared third leg was useless, surgeons had extra bone, muscle and skin to work with. They also had to rebuild the girls’ urinary and reproductive organs. But the op was a success – and the girls should be able to have children in the future.
Mackenzie went home after six weeks, and Macey followed a month later. Darla and Jeff, who also have three biological sons – Tyler, 18, Matthew, 15, and Luke, 14 – began the adoption process when the girls were 18 months old.
Darla says: “We’d fallen in love with them. Our boys were so happy to have three sisters.”
Now the girls have regular physiotherapy to help them walk on prosthetic legs and they all attend the same school, where they are popular. Darla admits: “Some kids were mean to start with, but the girls have shrugged it off. They love PE and art lessons.”
Understandably, Madeline feels a little jealous of the attention her sisters get.
Darla says: “She says she wishes she had one leg, and hops around. But she’s starting to realise she’s the lucky one.”
Madeline loves horse riding and has been helping teach her sisters to ride. Darla says: “They were scared at first, but Madeline has been a wonderful teacher.”
Mackenzie adds: “I wish I could ride a bike like Madeline. But I can jump five times with my skipping rope on one leg.”
Sadly, the girls – who have a normal life expectancy – suffer from severe scoliosis and will need spine-straightening surgery in a few years. Darla explains: “They have frequent tests to make sure they’re growing properly, but there’s no reason why they can’t have a long, happy life.”