When twins Kendra and Maliyah Herrin were born, doctors feared they wouldn’t survive.
The girls were conjoined, sharing an abdomen, pelvis, liver, kidney and large intestine. They also shared one pair of legs, with Kendra controlling the right leg and Maliyah controlling the left.
The twins’ parents, Jake and Erin, from Salt Lake City, Utah, didn’t go ahead with the operation to separate them straight away. Instead, it took years of deliberation before they committed to the potentially life-threatening procedure.
Kendra and Maliyah underwent a 26-hour operation to be separated when they were just four years old. Thankfully, it was a success, and now, 13 years later, they’re both thriving.
The teenagers have now starred in a BBC Three documentary about their lives, and telling the story of the risky operation.
At the time, surgeons had never separated twins who shared just one kidney. The operation took months of planning and research, and while it would give the girls’ independence and the chance of a longer life, it could also have cut their lives short.
The operation went well, and though Kendra and Maliyah had to undergo many followup procedures over the years, such as straightening their spines, they girls were out of the hospital within six weeks of the first operation.
You can watch the short documentary here:
As BBC Three describes:
Teenagers Kendra & Maliyah were born as conjoined twins, sharing a liver and only one kidney between them. They had life-threatening surgery to separate them when they were four years old, so they now live with one leg each.
Although they remain very close, the girls admit they have totally different personalities and would have found it very difficult to have lived a conjoined life. We see how they face tough day-to-day challenges, and how they have started to overcome these to become an inspiration to others.
After the operation, Kendra was left with their only kidney, meaning Maliyah has had to have a number of kidney transplants.
She received her first kidney at age five, from her mother. It lasted ten years, though at age 15 the kidney was starting to fail and she had to go on dialysis before getting a new one.
Amazingly, after a year and a half on the waiting list, an anonymous donor came though and Maliyah received another kidney. Almost a year since the transplant, Maliyah is in good health, and the twins are going to public school for the first time, having had to study online until now, MailOnline reports.
The twins have now started their own YouTube channel, to give an insight into their daily lives, as well as sharing inspiring content.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.