Formerly conjoined twin separated by VCU team dies after first birthday

BEFORE SURGERY: A’zhari holds her mother Nachell’s hand. (PHOTO: VCU)

BEFORE SURGERY: A’zhari holds her mother Nachell’s hand. (PHOTO: VCU)

FRANKLIN, Va. (WTVR) – One of the formerly conjoined twins, surgically separated at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU in April has died.

VCU Medical center spokesperson Eric Peters confirmed that A’zhari Lawrence died early Monday morning after she had just celebrated her 1st birthday on Oct. 10.

The pair of six-month-old conjoined twins were surgically separated after a 14-hour operation, in April 2013. A’zhari was joined with her twin, A’zhiah Lawrence, at the abdomen and heart.

In separating A’zhari and A’zhiah Lawrence, of Franklin, Virginia, doctors divided the children’s liver. David Lanning, M.D., Ph.D., surgeon-in-chief had said at the time of surgery that there are no published reports of successful, phased-separation surgeries of twins who share vital organs and conjoined at the abdomen and heart.

Lanning had been very optimistic about the twins’ recovery.

“At this point we don’t anticipate any future operations or need for any long term medications,” he had said in a statement in April. “I see the girls living full happy lives as individuals.”

The surgery team faced many challenges during the separation.

When the twins’ mother was 13 weeks pregnant, she learned her daughters were conjoined. She gave birth to the girls in October. Five days later doctors learned the twins were joined at the liver and a shared pericardium.

Doctors said they performed the first stage of the phased separation on Oct. 25, 2012 when they separated the conjoined liver.

“As the girls became critically ill over the second week of their lives, we had to urgently separate their conjoined liver as this was the source of their uncompensated cross circulation,” Lanning said.

“However, complete separation at that time would almost assuredly have resulted in their deaths as A’zhari was in renal failure and A’zhiah had severe cardiac hypertrophy.”

“A phased surgery was the optimal plan,” Lanning said in April.

In February surgeons placed tissue expanders in the twins’ abdomens, allowing extra skin to grow. That skin was later used in reconstructive surgery.

“We made the decision to proceed with the final separation once the girls gained weight and their renal and heart problems resolved,” said Lanning.

This was not the first time doctors at VCU have separated conjoined twins. In 2011, doctors separated 19-month-old conjoined twins, Maria and Teresa Tapia of the Dominican Republic.

CBS 6 has reached out to the hospital for more information and will report back when we have more details. 

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