Former conjoined twins celebrate 21st birthday

Jess Hardiman

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Former conjoined twins celebrate 21st birthday

Featured Image Credit: ABC

Two former conjoined twins are celebrating an amazing milestone that many feared might never come, having just turned 21.  

Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas were born joined at the head in July 2001, having had a rare condition that affects approximately one in every two-and-a-half million babies. 

After being born to Wenceslao and Leticia Quiej-Alvarez in a remote village in Guatemala, the pair travelled to California to undergo a 23-hour separation surgery at UCLA in 2002. 

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Following the high-risk surgery, they faced a number of challenges after contracting life-threatening brain infections. Teresa was left with permanent brain damage, requiring round-the-clock care in LA, while Hull had seizures and other complications. 

Their parents had made the difficult decision to allow their daughters’ respective host families in America to adopt them, meaning the two now live apart after being brought up by different parents. 

Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas were born joined at the head in July 2001. Credit: ABC
Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas were born joined at the head in July 2001. Credit: ABC

But the sisters – who were initially not expected to live past their first birthdays – remain close, often reuniting to mark key moments like their 10th birthday, quinceañera and, more recently, their 21st birthdays and 20th anniversary of the separation. 

Josie told People that she also still speaks to her birth parents regularly, saying: "We talk every Sunday. They're really proud of both of us." 

They recently celebrated their 21st birthdays. Credit: ABC
They recently celebrated their 21st birthdays. Credit: ABC

And the bond with her sister is also stronger than ever, adding of Teresa: “I adore her. She can't walk or talk, but I can understand her and she can understand me. We communicate through our eyes." 

Josie was adopted by Jenny Hull, while Teresa was adopted by Florie and Werner Cajas. 

Florie is in awe of the sisters’ amazing connection, saying how Josie can ‘always get smiles out of Teresa when other people can’t’. 

Jenny added: “In the eyes of the world they're both deemed challenged, but they've touched so many lives. 

“This birthday is such a huge milestone to celebrate.” 

While their story is a huge credit to modern medicine, doctors who have helped the twins over the years have also praised the input of their families. 

The sisters when they were younger. Credit: ABC
The sisters when they were younger. Credit: ABC

Dr Mark Urata, an oral and plastic surgeon at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, was also on the team that operated on the sisters – who had shared a blood supply because they were connected at the brain, meaning the brain tissue had to be separated. 

“It was very risky,” he said. “At the time, the success rates for similar separations were not great.” 

Dr Robert Kay, chief of orthopedic surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, also told People: "None of this would have been possible without the care and love that their families have put in over all these years to maximize their potential.” 

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Topics: News, World News, Health

Jess Hardiman
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