Conjoined Twins Separated At Nationwide Children’s Hospital Are Now Taking Separate Strides

The Twins, Stunning Their Surgeon With Every Step

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Two-year-old twins Acen and Apio Akello, born conjoined, are now walking and playing independently thanks to specialists at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Healthy and happy, the girls recently returned to their home country of Uganda.

The girls were born joined at the spine and hip region, but had a successful separation surgery on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 at Nationwide Children’s. A surgical team of more than 30 specialists from pediatric surgery, plastic surgery, colorectal surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology and nursing performed the 16-hour operation.

Following their operation and recovery, the twins were discharged from the hospital on Feb. 8, 2016. They stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House while going to outpatient appointments and clinical therapy appointments where they learned how to walk. It was not a simple task since they were conjoined and not able to walk for the first year of their lives.

“My main goal for when they arrived home in Uganda was for them to be able to walk off the plane independently, without any assistance,” said Dr. Gail Besner, chief of Pediatric Surgery at Nationwide Children’s. “The determination of the girls and the outstanding work of our occupational therapy and physical therapy teams helped them do just that.”

Conjoined twins occur in about 1 in 200,000 pregnancies. Since 1978, surgeons at Nationwide Children’s have successfully separated five sets of conjoined twins, including Acen and Apio.

“I fully expect the girls will lead happy and healthy lives thanks to their determination and the bravery of their mom, Ester, who entrusted the girls in our care,” said Dr. Besner, also a faculty members at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.


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Twin girls were on two separate tables immediately after their separation surgery, but the surgery was still hours from being completed. The team from Nationwide Children`s Hospital that was formerly huddled around one operating table now huddled around two, and additional nurses and anesthesiologists were brought in to assist in the reconstruction.

Apio (left) and Acen (right) Akello were once conjoined, but after their surgery at Nationwide Children`s Hospital, they can now choose when to be together and apart.

Acen Akello, 2, who was once a conjoined twin, reads with her mom, Ester. The family has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as Acen and her twin sister, Apio, have been recovering from the surgery they had at Nationwide Children`s Hospital in 2015.

Apio Akello, 2, once a conjoined twin, can now walk and play independently after having surgery at Nationwide Children`s Hospital.

Dr. Gail Besner, chief of Pediatric Surgery, led a team at Nationwide Children`s Hospital to separate these formerly conjoined twins in 2015. Today, she`s proud of their recovery and loves their individual, special personalities.

Once conjoined, Acen and Apio see their twin for their first time since their separation. The girls were happy to see each other as they heal from surgery at Nationwide Children`s Hospital.

Dr. Gail Besner assures Ester Akello that her twins girls are doing well the morning after their separation surgery as they recover in the Intensive Care Unit at Nationwide Children`s Hospital.

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