Unlike most new parents dealing with colicky babies, Amy and Jesse Carlsen have a pretty good idea why Abbigail and Isabelle are cranky and up in the wee hours of the night. On May 12 the 6-month-old twins, born with overlapping hearts and attached pancreases, livers and intestinal tissue, were separated during a 10-hour operation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Almost two weeks later the formerly conjoined twins are still finding their newfound autonomy daunting. "They feel unbalanced," says Jesse, 29, an engineering technician. Accustomed to lying on a shared side, he says, "It's an awkward feeling for them to lie on their backs. Their arms flail around; they have trunk muscles they are not used to using." They are also battling post-op pain. "They still have healing to go," says pediatric surgeon Christopher Moir, who led the 70-member medical team. "But they're right on course."
On May 21 the girls were moved from intensive care to the general pediatric unit. For the twins' parents, Moir's prognosis of "separate, healthy girls" is still sinking in. Prior to the surgery, Moir had warned that the odds of one or both children not surviving the surgery ran as high as 30 percent. So seeing the girls separated for the first time was, well, overwhelming. "I didn't think you could laugh and cry at the same time," says Amy, 26, a nurse. If the twins' recovery remains on track, the Carlsens are soon expected to take them home to Fargo, N.D. "It will be great," says Amy, "to have the four of us do things together."
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