Surgery separates Siamese sisters

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Doctors who separated 13-week-old twins born joined at their heads focused today on saving one of the infants, while the fate of her terminally ill sister remained ''in God's hands.''

In a 131/2-hour operation Tuesday, Michelle Tejeda was separated from her sister, Nichelle. The girls were born 13 weeks premature and shared a small portion of their brains.

The separation procedure, believed to be the first ever in Texas, went well, according to officials at St. David's Hospital. Both infants were listed in stable, critical condition this morning in the hospital's intensive care unit for newborns.

Nichelle is given no chance of survival because she has a herpes infection she inherited in the womb. The disease has destroyed part or all of her intestines, stomach, bladder, kidneys, liver and brain.

The hospital said it would try keeping the little girl comfortable, although there would be little attempt to prolong her life.

When asked how long Nichelle was expected to live, Margaret Whitfield Morton, marketing director for the hospital, said: ''It's in God's hands.''

Even for Michelle, who has shown no signs of herpes infection but has battled other problems, ''it is a complicated situation,'' said Richard M. Turbin, St. David's senior vice president of medical affairs. He said the long-term outlook was ''guarded.''

Alicia Tejada, who gave birth to the girls May 15, cried when told the girls had been separated, said Larry Schaubhut Jr., the mother's court-appointed lawyer.

''She was very sad that Nichelle is dying, but at the same time, she was excited that Michelle has come so far,'' Schaubhut said.

Michelle and Nichelle, who now weigh 6 pounds, 4 ounces each, became the sixth set of twins to undergo separation surgery worldwide since 1991.

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