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Twins Arrive For Possible Separation Surgery

August 17, 1993

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Seven-week-old siamese twins arrived Tuesday from Chicago for an operation that doctors say has a 1 percent chance of keeping one of them alive. The other will die.

Amy and Angela Lakeberg are joined at the chest and share a heart and a liver. They were being evaluated for surgery at Children’s Hospital.

Doctors at Loyola University Medical Center in suburban Chicago, where the girls were born June 29, advised their parents, Kenneth and Reitha Lakeberg, against separation.

Without the operation, however, both children are certain to die.

″As a parent concerned about their child, they wanted to play the odds, so to speak - take the chance even though it’s so minuscule,″ Loyola spokesman Mike Maggio said.

″Our recommendation would have been to keep them fed and warm and nurtured and allow them to die without going through the surgical problems and ultimately end with the same fate,″ he said.

The Lakebergs said Sunday the surgery would be performed within a week. But hospital spokeswoman Jackie Kozloski said it won’t be scheduled until after tests Wednesday. The Lakebergs didn’t make themselves available for comment Tuesday.

The twins were flown from Chicago in a medically equipped jet, then taken by helicopter to Children’s Hospital.

The odds against survival are so high because of the twins’ single heart, Maggio said. The liver could easily be divided.

″The heart is extremely complex: abnormal,″ Maggio said.

The cost of care since the twins’ birth has already reached several hundred thousand dollars. It may be picked up by the hospital’s charity fund, Maggio said.

A benefit for the family on Sunday raised about $4,000.

Lakeberg, 26, was hired by a welding company in mid-July after being unemployed for nearly a year. He and his 24-year-old wife also have a 5-year- old daughter, Shervon. They live with relatives in Wheatfield, Ind.

Siamese, or conjoined, twins occur once in about every 60,000 pregnancies, and only about 30 percent are born live or survive beyond the first day.

Surgeons at Children’s Hospital have operated on 13 sets of Siamese twins since 1957, Kozloski said. In several cases, the twins shared vital organs and one baby was sacrificed in an attempt to save the other.

Last month, doctors at the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington separated 2 1/2 -month-old Brittany and Tiffany Lewis, who shared one kidney. Tiffany died after two days. Brittany, who kept the kidney, has been released from the hospital.

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