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Separated twins leave hospital

Two formerly conjoined toddlers from the Dominican Republic have left a US hospital after recovering from separation surgery.

Maria and Teresa Tapia were given a warm send-off by doctors, nurses, volunteers and others who cared for them as they left the Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University with their mother and aunt.

The 20-month-old girls were joined at the chest and underwent complicated, nearly day-long surgery on November 7.

In a series of procedures, the surgical team divided the twins' liver, pancreas and other shared organ systems and reconstructed their abdominal walls.

The girls will stay in Richmond for follow-up medical visits and outpatient treatment to continue to work on walking and other motor skills as they become accustomed to being separated. They are expected to go home by Christmas.

While the toddlers are getting used to exploring their surroundings separately, they still stay near each other and hold hands when they walk.

The lead doctor on their surgical team, Dr David Lanning, said that both children have been recovering well are not expected to require any long-term medical treatment, except possible minor surgery to construct belly buttons.

"Overall, I don't think we could have asked for a better outcome," he said. They will lead healthy, long lives, with the ability to "be together but make independent decisions".

"I thank God and everyone who made this possible," the girls' mother, Lisandra Sanatis, said through a translator as they left the hospital.

After being in Richmond for several months, she said she and her daughters have grown fond of everyone they have met. But they are more than ready to go home and reunite with the twins' father and three other siblings.

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