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Montefiore in the News

April 21, 2006

Boys and Mother Arlene Enjoy Quiet Birthday Celebrations at Home

CHAM Surgeons Also Celebrate the Growing Global Adoption of Staged Surgeries
as the ‘Gold Standard’ in Separating Conjoined Twins

(New York City, NY)  April 21, 2006  --  Carl and Clarence Aguirre today are celebrating their fourth birthdays with cake and presents and balloons in the living room of their temporary home in Scarsdale, NY, with their very happy mother, Arlene Aguirre.  “All I ever wanted was a normal life with just my boys and me together, doing things like other families,” said Ms. Aguirre.  “This is my dream.”

 “The boys really are realizing their mother’s dream of living a normal life,” said Robert Marion, MD, the boys’ pediatrician at CHAM, who sees the boys for routine medical check-ups.  “They live in a house in the suburbs and take a school bus to their preschool program for physical, occupational and speech therapy,” said Dr. Marion.  “They play, fight and love their mother.  They have grown and gained weight.  It’s a huge personal triumph for the family.”  

The brothers, born joined at the tops of their heads, traveled to New York from their home in the Philippines and were successfully separated by surgeons at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) more than a year and half ago.  Drs. James Tait Goodrich and David A. Staffenberg and their surgical team at CHAM separated the boys in a landmark series of four surgeries staged over ten months, resulting in the first-ever separation of craniopagus twins with no resulting neurological deficit or damage.

“My boys are running, talking and sometimes they are also fighting like regular brothers,” said Ms. Aguirre.  “It is a blessing to watch them growing and learning every day.”

“The boys’ remarkable healing, without any complications, affirms the strength of our staged approach,” said David Staffenberg, MD, co-leader of the boys’ surgical team and chief, pediatric plastic surgery, CHAM.  “Colleagues have told us they see the successful separation of Carl and Clarence as a human victory, not a technological victory,” said Dr. Staffenberg.

“I agree we were successful not simply because of the best technology and breakthrough therapies we have at CHAM to treat our patients, but because of the unique way we approach each of our cases,” said Dr. Staffenberg.  “We are proud of what our CHAM team did for Carl and Clarence, and we’re just as proud of what the boys are doing for themselves these days.”  Carl and Clarence are continuing daily physical, occupational and speech therapy with a team at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York.

“This has been a very rewarding case in many ways,” said James Tait Goodrich, MD, co-leader of the boys’ surgical team and director, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, CHAM.  “Carl and Clarence continue to make progress and it’s great to see them beginning to realize their potential.  Seeing them whizzing around as active and pretty vocal four-year-olds still makes my day!”

“Other rewards have come in the form of growing recognition within academia of the importance of the ‘staged approach’ we took with Carl and Clarence,” said Dr. Goodrich.  “Both the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the European Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons have adopted the staged procedure as the way to go.”  The premier publication in neurosciences, Brain, has just published a landmark article on staged separation.

The staged approach of the CHAM team is also gaining traction within the practicing surgical community.  Drs. Goodrich and Staffenberg are quietly assisting a team of neurosurgeons in Europe who earlier this week successfully completed the third surgery in their staged separation of craniopagus twins.  “Both children are doing well,” said Dr. Goodrich.  “Seeing changes in medical practice that will result in healthier and happier outcomes for patients and their families around the world is a very special thing.”

The CHAM team will be taking a look at the degree of new bone development in both boys’ skulls in the next few weeks via CT scans to re-evaluate their readiness for additional reconstructive surgeries to help close over the soft spots on the tops of their heads (where they had been conjoined) with bone.

Dr. Staffenberg says he does not have a specific timeline or schedule for completing the boys’ skull reconstructions.  “Uninterrupted family life and school time are the most important things for their continued advancement right now,” said Dr. Staffenberg.