Two young twins who were born conjoined have returned home after a successful separation surgery and more than year-long stay in Philadelphia.
Addison and Lilianna Altobelli were born connected at the abdomen and chest, sharing a liver, diaphragm, chest and abdominal wall.
The twins' were diagnosed prenatally in August 2020 when a routine scan showed their parents, Maggie and Dom Altobelli, were having conjoined twins.
“(Doctors) advised us at first like, ‘Hey, this is a very long road,’” Maggie told TODAY Parents. “We said, ‘Well, let’s do all the studies and make sure these girls will live a possibly healthy life.’”
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"I'm an eternal optimist and thought we can handle it," Dom Altobelli said.
Addison and Lillianna were born Nov. 18, 2020 at just 4.2 pounds each and would spend 11 months in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Even before the twins were born, the family moved to Pennsylvania to be near the team of doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, one of a few hospitals in the U.S. experienced in separating conjoined twins.
On Oct. 13, a surgical team involving more than two dozen specialists began the operation the family had been long waiting for.
"We were crying with excitement and love, just like, you girls have no idea what is about to happen," the parents said.
Ten hours later, the Altobellis saw their daughters separated for the first time.
“It was very surreal, just very emotional. The whole day was very peaceful and we kind of just gave it to God — and we’ve done that throughout this whole journey,” Maggie told NBC's Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb in an exclusive interview. “We’re just so lucky to have surgeons who know what they’re doing and really worked hard and cared for our girls like they were their own.”
On Dec. 1, the family returned to Chicago where the twins spent two weeks at Lurie Children's Hospital before being discharged for Christmas.
Both girls still have tracheostomy tubes and ventilators to help with their breathing, as they will need time to develop musculature and adjust to breathing on their own, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
In time, they will be weaned off the ventilators.
“We’re starting a new book – it’s not even a new chapter, it’s a new book,” said Dom. “We started a brand-new book for the girls, and there's an Addy book, and there's a Lily book.”