Fifteen years ago, when we were born, our parents faced a difficult decision. They could keep us together-- a situation that might create risk because of our one kidney-- or separate us, an equally dangerous option. If we were kept together, we would never be able to sit on two separate chairs, spend individual time with our family or friends, or even go out while the other stayed home.
Our parents decided to separate us, which would allow for our separate personalities to flourish. Due to our unique one-kidney situation though, doctors decided it would be best to wait until we were four and our bodies were more developed. Leading up to the surgery, our parents discussed the procedure with countless surgeons to determine how and if it could be done.
At the time our parents started to mention this to us, we were only three. We didn't exactly understand the risks at the time, but we grasped very clearly that we wouldn't be "stuck together" anymore. Before we started attending the hospital regularly, we visited the zoo, went swimming, and tried to spend as much time together as a family as possible.
When we had to go to the hospital to prepare for the surgery the first time, we woke up early in the morning. As our mom fixed our hair and got us dressed, Kendra asked, "Is it cut apart day?"
"No, but we are going to the hospital for cut apart day soon," Our mom replied. Every week after that, we would get tissue expanders under our skin to stretch it. This would make it easier for the doctors to stitch us up after separation.
In the months before our separation surgery, the hospital staff treated us like royalty. We had our own play room in the hospital, and the nurses let us squirt them in the face with syringes. The staff gave us hospital dolls that they had sewn together like us. We each were given a pair to cut apart when we felt ready for the surgery. Kendra cut hers apart right away, while Maliyah waited until after the surgery.
While we were staying in the hospital, we received fan mail from all of you! It lifted our spirits to see all the kind letters and well-wishes people had sent. We still have them, and your words continue to mean so much to us.
On the day of the surgery, the hospital staff gave us a scavenger hunt looking for numbers on the ceiling. When the numbers had reached 12, it was time for surgery. Although we had felt confident about the surgery until that moment, it was hard to leave our parents. Everybody was crying, and saying goodbye was hard.
When the surgery happened, we were obviously asleep. A couple of weeks later, we woke up. Maliyah was very out of it from some medicine, and uncharacteristically sharing with Kendra, something she hadn't liked to do before the surgery. We were in the hospital for 90 days before, during, and after the surgery. When we got to go home, we took Polaroid pictures (featured in the video) and got ready to leave the hospital.
As we left, news crews were following us out of the hospital. To lighten the mood, our dad made a joke: "What are these people doing here, and why are they following us?" When we got home, everybody we knew was outside our house welcoming us back. When we got to our room, we had separate beds! It was a huge moment for both of us, because we had always shared a bed at home until that moment.
Looking back on this experience, we are immensely grateful for the decision our parents made to separate us. Although life still has its challenges, we are able to sit in two different rooms, go two different places, and express our own personalities in the way we would like.
Click here to see the video.
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Thanks for Reading and Watching,
Kendra & Maliyah
~The Herrin Twins~