VALHALLA, New York - Twin sisters born conjoined at the tail bone have left the hospital in Westchester County where they underwent successful separation surgery in January.
Ballenie and Bellanie Camacho have spent the last three months at Valhalla's Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, which they departed from Friday to a chorus of applause and smiles from the family, friends, doctors and hospital staff who lined the exit.
The twins, from the Dominican Republic, celebrated their first birthday last month just weeks after undergoing a 21-hour surgery separating them from their lower backs. They also shared a spinal cord, which made the surgery extremely challenging and complex.
This was the first separation surgery ever performed on conjoined twins at Maria Fareri, and a team of more than 50 medical professionals performed multiple surgeries on the little ones, including gastrointestinal and reconstructive work.
Extra moments from the separated twins news conference
Referred by a family friend to the hospital, the girls' parents say they're forever grateful to the doctors and staff who went above and beyond for their family.
"I can't believe seeing one in her bed, the other in another," mom Laurilin Celadilla said through a translator. "Every day is like seeing them for the first time."
The girls have made amazing progress in their recovery, as well.
"Bellanie already crawls and is trying to stand up," dad Abel Camacho said through a translator. "It's beyond what we had hoped."
Doctors used a 3-D printed model to help guide them through the surgery, but to prepare, they worked with something a bit more low-tech.
"I went to the store, and I bought a Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse doll, medium sized, and I sewed them to each other right at their tailbone," Dr. Samir Pandya said.
Surgeons were able to successfully separate the tailbone, spinal cord, and a vital artery that the girls shared. The focus now is physical therapy.
"They need to get to the baby gym and work out, strengthen the muscles so that we can get them crawling, walking and meeting the milestones," Dr. Whitney McBride said. "And there's no reason they shouldn't do that."
Conjoined twins are rare about one in every 200,000 births, according to University of Maryland Medical Center.