Los Angeles – The adoptive parents of Guatemalan twins Josie and Teresa - who were joined at the head at birth but surgically separated a year later - threw a party for the girls for their 10th birthday
"After they performed the surgery on them, (Teresa) returned to Guatemala, and they were there for about six months and then she got a big infection, meningitis, and returned here," Florie Cajas, the adoptive mother of one of the twins, told Efe.
"And the doctor said that they could not do anything for her, they were going to let her die in the hospital," recalled the wife of Presbyterian pastor Werner Cajas Dubon, who added that therefore "it's a miracle" to be able to celebrate her 10th birthday, which they did on Aug. 6.
Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesus, daughters of Wenceslao Quiej and Lety Alvarez, were born joined at the head on July 25, 2001, in Belen de Mazatenango, Guatemala.
Surgeons at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital learned of the case through the Guatemalan medical community and the non-profit organization Mending Kids International.
After transporting the twins to UCLA, on Aug. 5, 2002, surgeons Jorge Lazareff and Henry Kawamoto performed the complicated 23-hour-long operation that separated the girls.
"This is one thing that's scary, because there's not much written about it. There was no guarantee that they would come out of (the surgery alive)," movie director and actor Mel Gibson, who by means of his donations to Mending Kids International provides the funds that the twins need for their medical expenses in the United States, told Efe.
"I think that time has shown that not all twins who are born conjoined at the head live to age 10; but they are still here and they are happy," added the star, who this weekend attended the twins' birthday party at a home in Malibu, California.
Jennifer Hull, the adoptive mother of Maria de Jesus, told Efe that in her family the little girl is called Josie and that she is growing up speaking only English because nobody in the household speaks Spanish.
"The girls live here so that the medical care they need can be provided to them. Their parents speak to them by telephone every weekend and they come to see them often," said Hull, who also said that Josie is going to be entering fourth grade and likes to swim.
"For me, it's a miracle seeing the desire to live, the strength to live, of these little girls over the course of these 10 years. It's a journey through life in which it's a real blessing to be involved," she added.
The party for the twins - which had a Hawaiian theme - was also attended by UCLA medical personnel, workers at Mending Kids International and some of Josie's schoolmates.
"This is a miracle of life from God. There's something special about them because wherever they go they generate a feeling of unity between communities," said the Rev. Cajas Dubon.