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Siamese Twin Dies After Surgical Separation

Sun., Jan. 28, 1996

A team of surgeons operated Saturday on 15-day-old Siamese twins joined at the chest and belly, and the weaker of the two girls died of heart failure soon after she was separated from her sister.

Sarahi Morales’ heart was too weak to pump blood through her body, Dr. John Lamberti said.

Her sister, Sarah, still has an excellent chance of survival, Lamberti said.

“This is a bittersweet victory because I was hopeful we could have both babies survive,” said Lamberti, a heart specialist who participated in the operation at Children’s Hospital San Diego.

The girls were separated more than three hours after the risky 6-1/2-hour surgery began. Doctors cut three blood vessels that ran through the band of skin connecting them and disconnected their joined livers.

Sarahi was the weaker of the twins since they were born Jan. 12. She was born with a heart defect, although an improvement in her heart rate occurred when doctors disconnected a blood vessel joining her to her twin.

The operation took place on a specially designed table that disconnected when the infant girls were separated, so teams of surgeons could continue to work simultaneously on patching up the infants’ chests.

Sarah and Sarahi were born in a Tijuana, Mexico, clinic and transferred a week later to Children’s Hospital San Diego, where doctors and nurses donated their time.

Parents Miguel Morales and Maria Espinoza earn less than $50 a week and are not eligible for California medical benefits because they live in Mexico.

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