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Separated Twins Could Go Home Soon

Guatemalan twins who were born joined at the head and were separated by surgeons last month may be able to return home within six weeks, doctors said.

Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez and her sister, Maria de Jesus, 1-year-olds separated in a 22-hour surgery Aug. 6, remain in serious but stable condition at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital.

Despite the complex surgery, which required doctors to cut through bone and redirect shared blood vessels, doctors are encouraged by their recovery.

"The twins are much better today than they were last week," said Dr. Jorge Lazareff, the pediatric neurosurgeon coordinating the girls' care. "Guatemala has very good medical care and is eager to take them."

The acute care will end by the end of October, and the girls may be released then, Lazareff said Wednesday.

Maria de Jesus enjoys watching people read books to her, eats solid food and holds her own bottle, nurses said.

Maria Teresa, who has undergone three surgical procedures to remove blood accumulations on her brain, is recovering more slowly. Nurses said she makes eye contact with visitors and responds to musical toys.

UCLA plastic surgeons on Tuesday completed a series of procedures to promote skin growth in sections of the girls' scalps that are healing slowly.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao visited the twins and their nurses while promoting careers in nursing.

"The nation is spellbound by what you've done," Chao told the nurses.

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