In 2006, during a 20-week ultrasound appointment, Suzy and Stacy Fitterer of Bismarck, North Dakota, discovered they were expecting twins. But that wasn't the biggest surprise of the appointment. The couple also learned their daughters were conjoined. Suzy recently told KFYR-TV in Bismarck that after researching the condition online, she was "devastated" by the news. That's because most conjoined twins, according to Mayo's website, are stillborn or die shortly after birth.
Happily, the Fitterer twins defied those odds. Abygail and Madysen were born on Aug. 8, 2006, and five months later were separated by a Mayo Clinic team led by Christopher Moir, M.D., who had recently separated another set of conjoined twins from North Dakota, Abby and Belle Carlsen. Suzy says that success story was one of the reasons she and her husband chose to bring their daughters to Mayo for care. She also tells us the two families have become close over the years and are often mistaken for one another. "We have a few funny stories," she says.
Stacy Fitterer, recently told The Bismarck Tribune that despite his daughters' unique beginnings, "we kind of let them be normal kids." For the active second graders, that means doing art projects, dressing up in princess dresses, and spending lots of time outside. "There's nobody who can beat them on the monkey bars," Suzy tells the newspaper.
While they're typical in many ways, the girls share a special bond. When asked what it meant to be born conjoined, Maddy told KFYR that, "You were born with your best friend, and it can never change." She also told the station that she won't go to sleep "unless I know [Abby's] OK and that she's going to go to sleep and not be afraid." (We'd like a best friend like Maddy).
Suzy and Stacy say the big fears about their daughters are behind them, but they still worry about lingering health issues the girls face. Both girls have asthma and celiac disease, and cold and flu season hits them hard. This year, Abby missed 50 days of school, and Maddy missed 30 days. "Any time they get a cold, we worry it's going to progress into something more serious," Stacy told KFYR. And since they do not have sternums, the girls will eventually need surgery to "construct something to protect their hearts."
That means "many more trips" to Mayo Clinic says Suzy, where she knows her daughters will be in good hands. "We are so happy we ultimately chose Mayo Clinic," she says. "The team that we worked with and continue to work with have taken such great care of the girls."
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