Exclusive: Parents of conjoined twins tell their story
Conjoined twins with only a small chance of survival are growing stronger after being successfully separated.
Emmett and Owen Ezell were born on July 17.
The twins weighed 11 pounds 15 ounces together. They shared the birth weight, but also part of their intestinal tract and a liver.
"I saw their hair and I saw their blue eyes," Jenni Ezell recalled of the first time she met her twins. "They were conjoined but that wasn't what I looked at as a mom. I just saw my two babies and they were amazing."
Jenni and Dave Ezell already had two sons. This pregnancy was unexpected, as was the news at the appointment to learn the twins' gender: the two boys were joined from the breast bone to the hip bone, shared organs, and were facing serious complications.
"He told us it looked like they had heart defects and it looked like they had a hemivertebrae which is just a triangular shaped vertebrae and he said that's not correctable," Jenni explained. "Their entire lives they'll have trouble moving and surgeries won't correct it."
"When you're faced with the decision of bringing these children into the world for a very small time and in that small time they're going to be in incredible amounts of pain, and they'll face surgeries and then after that's over with they're going to die," Dave said thoughtfully, "And the choice is to let them die after all that or prevent them from experiencing it, it's an unbelievable hard choice."
"We decided they wouldn't have a good quality of life, that they would be in so much pain and we didn't want that for our children," Jenni explained through tears.
The couple made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy.
The odds facing their babies led them to a decision the couple says changed their lives, but not in the way they expected.
Their journey to find a doctor to perform the procedure took them to Dallas, TX, where the babies were finally given the one thing they needed: a chance.
"We went to medical city and saw the doctor there and that's where they told us there's hope and we don't have to do this," Jenni said. "We were so overjoyed. I couldn't even see straight because I was so happy and I was crying so hard because I didn't want to abort my babies. I just didn't want to put them through so much pain."
The second opinion showed the boys' hearts were fine, and the hemivertebrae was probably scoliosis. Doctors at Medical City Children's Hospital also believed the twins would be able to be separated.
Months after the birth, the Ezell's new home in Dallas shows no signs of newborns.
16-month-old Liam has a crib in the room he and Ethan, 7, share.
A spot next to the bed in Jenni and Dave's room has been designated for the cribs, one day.
Instead, Jenni's nesting has been limited to the NICU, where she spends most of her time.
Just before the surgery to separate the twins, their big brothers were able to meet them for the first time.
And Jenny was given her own special moment with her bundle of babies.
"One of the nurses allowed me to put my hands underneath them," Jenni explained through tears. "I picked them up and I kissed them."
It was the only time she has been able to "hold" her babies.
Blankets blessed by a family friend's church in Arkansas were with Owen and Emmett August 27 during the nine hour surgery that granted them independence.
During the surgery, doctors discovered the boys each have everything they need to survive.
Now, they're being weaned off ventilators and the wounds on their stomachs are closing.
They'll eventually need more surgeries to fix the scar tissue and add abdominal muscles.
They'll also get belly buttons.
Sometimes moments still take Jenni and Dave back to the decision that somehow led their twins to the right doctors and the chance they needed for a full life.
"I feel like everything happens for a reason," Jenni said. "I don't know why they were conjoined but because they're still here they're going to do amazing things."