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Doctors Optimistic About Twins

Doctors have begun using an IV to feed the Guatemalan twins who were born joined at the head and separated in a lengthy surgery this week.

Through the IV, the twins have been receiving proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Maria de Jesus Quiej Alvarez and sister Maria Teresa remained in critical condition, with stable vital signs, and were progressing exactly as doctors had hoped.

Both twins were moving their hands and feet "in a normal fashion," and opening their eyes to look around, said Dr. Andy Madikians, attending physician in the pediatric intensive care unit at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital.

"That's what we'd like to see," Madikians said.

The one-year-old twins were born joined at the head and separated in a 22-hour surgery this week.

A UCLA Medical Center spokeswoman says the girls are still sedated but they're moving and responding to stimulation. The spokeswoman says they're progressing exactly as doctors had hoped. The doctors, however, remain cautiously optimistic about their long-term prospects for survival.

On Thursday, Maria de Jesus was the first to show eye movement. Maria Teresa began making movements later but was not as animated as her sister. That may have been a result of the five extra hours of surgery she underwent to remove a buildup of blood on her brain after being separated, said Dr. Andy Madikians, head of pediatric intensive care at UCLA's Mattel Children's hospital.

"Maria de Jesus is responding a little bit more. You squeeze her hand and she pulls away. ... It might be the one who is more responsive only had one surgery," Madikians said.

The girls were born in rural Guatemala to Alba Leticia Alvarez, 23, and Wenceslao Quiej Lopez, 21. The father works as a banana packer, earning the equivalent of just $64 every three weeks, a grandfather of the twins said Thursday in Belen, Guatemala, where residents eagerly awaited reports on the twins' recovery.

"Thank God there were specialized doctors," said Wenceslao Quiej Hernandez.

The girls were attached at the top of the skull and faced opposite directions. They shared bone and blood vessels, but had separate brains. Such cases occur in fewer than one in 2.5 million live births.

The risky surgery involved separating veins that connected the girls' heads, and plastic surgery to extend the scalp of each child to cover the portion of exposed brain.

The two still face follow-up surgeries to reconstruct their skulls.

The twins' $1.5 million surgery was arranged by Healing the Children, a nonprofit group in Spokane, Wash. The UCLA doctors donated their services, but the hospitalization costs remain to be covered.

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