For any couple preparing for the birth of a new baby, there’s great anticipation and much nervousness. Even if the baby is healthy, the birthing process and having a new little one to care for brings on a certain amount of stress.
But imagine the stress of preparing for twins. Then, multiply that by imaging the stress of preparing for conjoined twins. Multiply that again by preparing for the birth of conjoined twins who share just one heart. That;s the world in which Robin and Michael Hamby find themselves.
But they say their twin babies may have just one heart but they say it’s a perfect one. And that’s why the Hambys rejected an abortion and are looking ahead to the birth of the twins, who are headed their way around Thanksgiving.
At LifeNews.com over the years, we’ve profiled a number of conjoined twins. In some cases, parents of the twins were given suggestions by doctors to have an abortion. In other cases, the babies were given a chance at life and they were unable to be separated because their unique medical situation made it medically dangerous to perform the surgery, which could have placed their lives at risk.
In those later cases like Tatiana and Christa, who are joined at the head, while some people in society would view them as “freaks” who have a low “quality of life,” they can see through each others’ eyes and they totally support each other physically and emotionally.
Like those courageous sisters, twin boys Asa and Eli will not be able to be separated.
One heart. One perfect heart.
That’s how Robin and Michael Hamby describe the condition of their conjoined twin sons, sharing one heart, one perfect heart, a ray of hope in a pregnancy where many may see only darkness and imperfections.
Medically, one heart, one perfect heart, means the twins won’t be separated, but it also means they have a better chance of surviving than other conjoined twins with one heart because that organ usually is deficient in some way.
Emotionally, one heart, one perfect heart, means Robin and Michael intend to have sons as united in brotherhood as they are in marriage.
And spiritually, one heart, one perfect heart, means this Ladonia, Ala., couple was motivated by their faith instead of their fear when they decided to ignore the naysayers and bring these budding boys into this world.
So when families around the Chattahoochee Valley gather around their tables to give thanks on Thanksgiving, the 34-year-old Hambys expect to be on the verge of a delivery that some contend will be a burden but they insist will be a blessing.
Against the odds
Robin, a registered nurse at Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Phenix City, and Michael, a hydrant valve technician for the Columbus Water Works, know the odds are overwhelmingly against a healthy ending to this journey. According to the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, conjoined twins occur once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births — and most are stillborn.
Statistics from the University of Maryland Medical Center are additionally daunting: 35 percent of conjoined twins survive only one day, the overall survival rate is between 5 percent and 25 percent, and female conjoined twins are three times more likely than males to be born alive.
The Hamby boys are connected, side by side, a category among the least common types of conjoined twins. They have one trunk but two separate heads. The technical term is dicephalic parapagus, although they won’t be classified until they are born.
Doctors haven’t determined all the organs and systems the Hamby twins share or have separately. With a total of two arms and two legs, each boy probably will control one arm and one leg, Robin said, so they will have to cooperate and coordinate. But they have two spines, she said, which will boost their stability.
During the 4-D imaging session July 19, the Hambys got a sneak peek of their sons’ personalities. The video camera showed Asa rest his head on Eli, who was sucking his fist. Eli promptly took his fist out of his mouth and popped Asa in the face.
As the proud parents shared a good laugh, they witnessed a symbol of that one heart, that one perfect heart: Eli extended his hand toward Asa again, but this time he appeared to give his brother a loving caress.
Robin said, “It was almost like, ‘Sorry, dude, I kind of got upset, but I didn’t mean it.'”