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Texas Siamese Twins To Be Separated In Day-Long Operation

August 22, 1995

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Surgeon began a lengthy operation today to separate twin baby girls born joined at the head, with one of the infants not expected to survive the surgery.

Michelle and Nichelle Tejeda have been critically ill since they were born 13 weeks premature on May 15.

They have been temporary wards of the state since June, when a judge ruled their mother, Alicia Tejeda, 31, was unfit to make decisions about their care.

Neurosurgeons Gordon White and Lee Berland started operating this morning at St. David’s Hospital. The operation was expected to take eight to 12 hours.

Doctors did not expect Nichelle to survive because a herpes virus that infected her in the womb has destroyed part or all of her intestines, stomach, bladder, kidneys, liver and brain. Only the connection to her sister keeps her alive, they said.

Michelle has suffered from an intestinal infection but so far has shown no sign of the herpes virus.

Experts estimate that as many as 70 separations have been done on twins joined at the head. Two-thirds of the time, one or both children have died.

The Austin American-Statesman reported Monday that six children have been removed from Ms. Tejeda’s care for abuse and neglect.

The twins’ father has not been identified.

Medical bills for the babies have already topped $500,000, with a small part to be paid by Medicaid and the rest provided by the hospital as part of its charity care, officials have said.

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