A pair of formerly conjoined twins are finally going home after spending seven months in the hospital undergoing seven surgeries to separate them.
Jesi and Remi Pitre were born in May 2018 joined at the stomach, and their livers and intestines were fused together.
But after having seven surgeries at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, to stretch out their skin and separate their organs, both girls, now seven months old, were discharged.
Their parents, Angi and Andre, from Apopka, described their emotional journey to the Orlando Sentinel and how excited they are to put their daughters into separate cars seats when they take them home on Saturday.
Andre and Angi were married in 2016 and discovered they were expecting shortly after Hurricane Irma, in September 2017, joking that they conceived a ‘hurricane baby’.
However, during an ultrasound when Angi was eight weeks pregnant, doctors told them they were having twins – but the girls’ livers and small intestines were fused together.
‘We didn’t know we were having twins, much less conjoined twins,’ Andre told the Orlando Sentinel.
Conjoined twins occur in approximately one in 200,000 live births, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Around 70 percent of conjoined twins are female and the majority are stillborn.
Approximately 75 percent are joined at the chest wall or upper abdomen, like Jesi and Remi were.
If the twins have separate sets of organs, as the girls did, they have a better chance of survival during separation surgery.
After going doing extensive research, the parents settled on UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital for the delivery and separation surgeries.
Angi went into labor on Mother’s Day and the girls were born facing each other with their arms and legs intertwined.
Over the next six months, Angi told the Sentinel she lived in an apartment three blocks from the hospital.
Andre and the two kids from Angi’s previous marriage, aged nine and 14, commuted back and forth to Gainesville.
The couple thought they would be in Gainesville for between two and three months but they ended up staying there for close to seven months as the twins underwent seven surgeries.
Family and friends encouraged the new parents to create a GoFundMe to help cover the costs of their medical care. They raised more than $10,000 out of their $55,000 goal.
Angi was forced to go on unpaid leave from her job to stay near the hospital full time while Andre worked three jobs: a day job in agriculture, a night job at an aquatics business and a worship leader at a local church on Sundays.
According to the Sentinel, the girls’ first surgery occurred when they were 10 weeks old to expand their skin.
The second surgery was to separate the livers and the intestines, a third surgery was skin grafts to cover the incision wounds, and then four more follow-up surgeries occurred.
They will need at least one more surgery to close their abdominal walls, but it won’t take place until next year.
Remi was the first baby discharged, staying with Angi in the Gainesville apartment and undergoing routine check-ups.
Jesi remained in the NICU for a few more weeks because she had breathing complications but, on Monday, she was finally discharged.
Andre said he is very excited to move the family home over the weekend and put the babies in separate car seats.
‘We’re still practicing a certain level of discretion of how much we share and what we say,’ he told the Sentinel.
‘Before you know it, these two girls will be teenagers and we want to be careful of what we put out there. They’re gorgeous, wonderful little babies. We’re doing what we can do to protect them.’