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Guatemalan twins return to UCLA, conditions remain uncertain

By Edward Chiao

May 22, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Formerly conjoined twins Maria de Jesus and Maria Teresa
Quiej-Alvarez were flown back to UCLA on Thursday after suffering
medical setbacks in Guatemala.

The twins, who were once joined at the head, were taken to the
Mattel Children’s Hospital, where they had been cared for
after separation surgery in August 2002.

Maria de Jesus was experiencing a fever and convulsions on
Wednesday, but was well enough to travel. Maria Teresa, who is
receiving oxygen to breathe, may have to undergo additional
surgery.

“The doctors are going to be ordering tests and reviewing
the findings, and we will release the findings once we have
permission,” said Elaine Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the UCLA
Medical Center.

The conditions of the twins could not be released without
authorization from a parent or legal guardian.

The parents of the girls did not travel with them from
Guatemala.

The twins returned to Guatemala on Jan. 13 of this year after
medical setbacks delayed their original trip home.

While in Guatemala, the twins were under the supervision of Dr.
Ludwig Ovalle, medical director of Guatemala’s Pediatric
Foundation.

On April 15, Maria Teresa was admitted to the intensive care
unit at the Hospital del Pilar in Guatemala City, where she was
being treated for E. Coli meningitis.

Doctors originally discovered a pump they inserted in Maria
Teresa’s skull had become infected. They successfully removed
the old pump, replacing it with a new device to keep liquid from
pooling and putting pressure on her brain.

On April 28, Ovalle invited Dr. Jorge Lazareff, director of
pediatric neurosurgery at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s
Hospital, and a team of doctors to visit the twins to
“consult” on their condition.

Before leaving for Guatemala, Lazareff said, “We hold the
utmost trust in our colleagues from Guatemala and know they are
providing Maria Teresa with the best of care.”

Lazareff and his team stayed in Guatemala for one day, and Maria
Teresa’s condition was upgraded to serious.

Since the separation surgery last August, Maria Teresa has
recovered slower than her sister, Maria de Jesus.

Maria Teresa has required three additional surgeries to remove a
buildup of blood in her brain. She also suffered hearing loss in
one ear and wears a hearing aid.

The 22-month-old twins arrived at UCLA on June 7, 2002.

Craniopagus twins ““ those joined at the head ““ make
up only 2 percent of conjoined twins. Their separation is one of
the most dangerous of all operations.

Doctors have performed cranial separations only five times in
the past 10 years, and not all twins have survived. This was the
first time the procedure had been attempted at UCLA.

With reports from Daily Bruin wire services. For complete
coverage, go to dailybruin.ucla.edu and click on
“Extended Coverage.”

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