Twin sisters AmieLynn Rose and JamieLynn Rae Finley were born conjoined at the stomach. But after an intense, 11-hour surgery on Monday, Texas doctors expect the sisters will grow up to live normal, healthy lives.

The Finley twins underwent the first ever separation surgery at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, according to the Vigour Times.

“I’m very hopeful that they’re going to have a good recovery and lead healthy lives in the future,” Dr. José Iglesias, the lead surgeon, said in a statement. “They’re going to have a bit of a ramp up from the recovery, but I think they’re going to be able to get there eventually, and very close to normal if not completely normal.”

According to a hospital press release, the twins’ abnormality was detected early in their mother Amanda Arciniega’s pregnancy. Later tests revealed that the girls were joined at the abdomen and shared a liver.

Doctors monitored Arciniega and her unborn daughters closely for months. Conjoined twins often die in the womb or shortly after birth, but AmieLynn and JamieLynn survived.

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On Oct. 3, doctors delivered the girls by cesarean section at 34 weeks of pregnancy, according to the hospital. Over the next several months, a team of doctors and nurses provided them with continuous care while their parents, three older siblings and other family members visited regularly to show the girls how much they were loved.

Earlier this month, doctors deemed the girls well enough to undergo separation. On Monday, a team of six surgeons and 19 other medical professionals worked for 11 hours on separating the twins, according to the report.

The hospital described the procedure:

The first few hours involve inserting central lines for delivering anesthesia and placing breathing tubes. Then, sedation begins. The process is slow and methodical. …

Once the girls are safely asleep, the surgeons begin marking incision lines. At 12:28 p.m., the separation officially begins. Guided by plastic surgeons, they are careful to make cuts that give the girls’ abdomens the best chance of closure.

First, surgeons open the abdominal wall and dissect the lower part of the sternum and the liver. A little under two hours in, the family receives word that the girls’ shared liver is separated.

At a press conference Wednesday, Iglesias said the girls are recovering well.

“The first steps are going to be healing of the very large incision that is required to separate them,” he said. “We have to wait for their gut to start to work before we start allowing nutrition to move through their intestines. Some of these things may require staged procedures so the family’s ready that the abdominal closure may take more than one operation. We’re hopeful it won’t, but that’s a possibility.”

Eventually, doctors said the girls will need physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and other rehabilitation, but they are taking the healing process one day at a time. Although the girls still have a long road of recovery ahead, their doctors expressed hope that they will live normal, health lives one day.

“They’re going to grow up into the little girls that they’re supposed to be: independent and feisty, like they’ve already shown us,” Iglesias said. “So, we’re very thankful with that so far.”

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