Fort Worth, TX,
11:22 AM

‘We Did It’: Conjoined Twin Girls Separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center Make History

JamieLynn and AmieLynn's Story (Full-Length Version)

Media partners may use this content for news stories and broadcasts with credit to Cook Children's.


Sisters JamieLynn and AmieLynn underwent surgery on Monday, becoming the first conjoined twins to be separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center.

Jamie and Amie lay face-to-face and shared a liver, which was successfully separated during the 11-hour procedure.

After the surgery, the girls returned to Cook Children’s NICU to begin their journey to recovery, this time on the road together, but separate.

Parents James Finley and Amanda Arciniega of Saginaw, Texas were overjoyed to reunite with their girls and see them in their separate cribs, laying on their backs for the first time on Monday evening.

Doctors are optimistic as the girls heal. Their primary focus will be breathing support and pain control in the next few days.

The girls were born in October via C-section at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. They were transferred to the Cook Children’s NICU to remain under the care of their neonatologists. Jamie and Amie love music and listening to their grandmother sing.

Written by Ashley Antle. 

All babies are special, but 16-week-old twin sisters JamieLynn Rae and AmieLynn Rose Finley are making history in one of the most unique ways possible. On Monday, they became the first conjoined twins ever to be separated at Cook Children’s Medical Center in an 11-hour procedure months in the making.

Conjoined twins are estimated to occur in only 1-in-200,000 live births. JamieLynn and AmieLynn are omphalopagus twins, meaning they are joined at the abdomen and share one or more internal organs. In their case, it’s a liver.

“As far as conjoined twins that reach and stay viable after birth, at least for the first few days, there's really only about five to eight of those per year on the entire planet, so it is very rare,” said Jose Iglesias, M.D., Cook Children’s medical director of pediatric surgery. JamieLynn and AmieLynn Family

Even so, the girls’ story begins like many others.

James Finley and Amanda Arciniega of Saginaw, Texas, wanted to add one more baby to their family of five. The youngest of their three children at the time, 7-year-old James, was elated at the prospect. He’s always wanted a younger sibling and playmate.

Little did any of them know — or expect —their hope for one more would become a gift of two.

“She said that's the baby's head,” Finley said, describing how their obstetrician shared the unexpected news of twins at their 10-week ultrasound. “I was like, ‘What is that?’ and she said, ‘That's the other baby's head.’ And I was like, ‘What?’”

Double Blessing

The revelation of the twins' connection came early in the pregnancy. The 10-week ultrasound showed the babies had little to no separation between them. Images taken at the following appointment confirmed the babies were conjoined. Suddenly, the family’s excitement for welcoming two new additions was covered by a cloud of questions, uncertainty and fear. 

“I would not have thought in a million years that I would have twins,” Arciniega said. “And then conjoined twins on top of that.”

In the months that followed Arciniega enjoyed an easy and uncomplicated pregnancy, save for the many appointments with specialists across the state to determine who best to deliver the twins and what hospital was most capable to care for them after birth.

The couple settled on maternal-fetal specialist Bannie Tabor, M.D., whose practice is located at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas. He is also the medical director for Cook Children’s Fetal Center. In his 32-year career of caring for high-risk pregnancies, Dr. Tabor has delivered more than 5,000 babies.

Soon after taking Arciniega and her unborn babies as patients, Dr. Tabor reached out to Dr. Iglesias, a longtime colleague, to review the case and discuss the possibility of separation. JamieLynn and AmieLynn Family

“It was a big surprise when I got the first phone call from Dr. Tabor saying he had conjoined twins that he was starting to follow,” Dr. Iglesias said. “At that time they really didn't know the babies’ anatomy specifically. So I said there is a big range of possibilities and we need to see what happened with the initial MRI to make some plans from there.”

Many conjoined twins die in utero or do not survive long after birth because of the nature of their joining and the organs they share. But scans showed JamieLynn and AmieLynn each had their own heart and heart sac, increasing their chance of survival and making them candidates for future separation.

“I think the key thing when we first met the family was they had a lot of anxiety about the situation, what the options were and what they could do,” Dr. Tabor said. “I think I gave them the confidence that, while I could not promise everything would work out, we would do everything that we could and, with everybody involved — from me to the neonatologists to the surgeons — they were in the right place.”

Family Ties

Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and Cook Children’s Medical Center have a long history of physical and professional collaboration. Both facilities are located in the heart of Fort Worth’s Medical District along a historical stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that cattle barons once called home. The two facilities are joined by a skywalk and, in Cook Children’s early days, even shared some utilities. Local neonatologists practice at both hospitals’ neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and many Texas Health Fort Worth obstetricians, including Dr. Tabor, regularly consult with Cook Children’s pediatric specialists.

“The working relationship between the whole team, that's made possible by the close relationship of the hospitals, allows us to be the center that can provide this type of highly advanced service to North Texas so families don’t have to go halfway across the state or halfway across the country or even to Dallas for care,” Dr. Tabor said. JamieLynn and AmieLynn

Early in the pregnancy, Finley and Arciniega also consulted Ben Gbulie, M.D., F.A.C.S, of Posh Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Mansfield, Texas, and a member of the plastic surgery faculty at Cook Children’s. They learned of Dr. Gbulie through Finley's mother, whose friend told her of a local plastic surgeon with experience in multiple conjoined twin separation surgeries.

After long discussions with the couple, he pointed them toward Cook Children’s Medical Center.

“I explained to them that traveling for surgery is not a problem, and a lot of people do that,” Dr. Gbulie said. “But if you can get the same quality of care where you live, it's always better because you want to be able to have long-term follow-up. While this is a major, complex operation, it is not something that is beyond what I felt Cook Children’s could do.”

Finley and Arciniega were relieved to hear Dr. Gbulie’s recommendation. The family lives less than 30 minutes from Cook Children’s. To know that they could stay close to home, close to their other children and close to their support system was comforting. JamieLynn and AmieLynn Family

Cook Children’s was also familiar. Two of the couple’s older children have received care at the medical center. Their daughter, Aaliyah, 13, spent weeks in Cook Children’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) when she was 7 for a nearly deadly bacterial infection called Bartonella henselae. It’s commonly known as cat scratch fever and can be acquired when scratched by a cat. Big brother, James, is a frequent visitor to Cook Children’s as he manages sickle cell disease. 

“Sometimes we come in here and I’m like, ‘Hey, I’ve seen you before,’ to a doctor that has been around our son or Aaliyah, and they’re like, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed you, too,’” Arciniega said. “So it’s kind of like we’re family here.”

“Everybody’s always treated us nice,” Finley added. “It takes a lot of pressure and anxiety off when you know your kid is going to be taken care of.”

Delivery Day

As the babies grew in utero, Dr. Tabor closely monitored their progress and, together with a team of doctors from both hospitals, prepared a delivery and post-natal game plan. During Arciniega’s third trimester, Dr. Tabor became concerned with the slow growth rate of the babies and determined it was best to deliver them early.

On Oct. 3, 2022, at 34 weeks gestation, JamieLynn and AmieLynn were delivered via C-section at 10:40 a.m. at Texas Health Fort Worth. Arciniega required a vertical incision over the traditional horizontal approach to delivering the babies safely. Both weighed 4 pounds, 7.8 ounces. JamieLynn was the longer of the two, measuring 16.9 inches to AmieLynn’s 16.5 inches. JamieLynn and AmieLynn Family

“It wasn’t an easy delivery, but we made it look easy,” Dr. Tabor said reflecting on that day.

Upon delivery, neonatologists Chad Barber, M.D. and Mary Frances Lynch, M.D., took over the babies’ care in Texas Health Fort Worth’s NICU. Like with any set of identical twins, telling them apart can be tricky and, if mistaken, dangerous in the hospital setting. To help keep their identities straight, Dr. Barber and Dr. Lynch chose a favored color for each girl, purple for JamieLynn and green for AmieLynn, and used Sharpies to mark each baby’s color on one of their nails.

After a month, the girls were transferred to the NICU at Cook Children’s Medical Center where they remain today, still under the care of Dr. Barber and Dr. Lynch who practice at both Texas Health Fort Worth and Cook Children’s. The girls’ color codes followed them there, too, and are used as an additional layer of safety when identifying the babies for medication administration, feedings and individual care needs. They even inspired the purple and green crayon costumes the girls sported for Halloween.

Home Away From Home

In the NICU room, which has been their babies’ home since November 2022, Finley and Arciniega attend to their infants like many other parents of twins — together. It takes two to pick them up, especially considering how they must navigate the tubes and wires that monitor the babies’ vitals and deliver nutritional support. Scripted signs handmade by the NICU nurses hang on the wall, making their private NICU room look a little more like a sweetly appointed home nursery. JamieLynn and AmieLynn

The girls lay face-to-face on their sides, carefully and frequently repositioned from one end of their shared crib to the other in order to give equal time on each side. Although currently the smaller of the two, JamieLynn is wide-eyed and alert. Her gaze fixes on and follows those that enter the room. She’s feisty and makes sure everyone knows when she is unhappy. Sister, AmieLynn, is more reserved. She’s often the calmer and more chill of the two.

Together, the beloved girls evoke the attention of their parents who make sure there are enough cuddles and kisses to go around, especially from their protective dad. He’s already planning ahead for the days when young men come calling for any one of his three daughters. JamieLynn and AmieLynn

“Every window will have a rose bush underneath,” Finley said with a laugh, but only half kidding.

Their days in the NICU are filled with feedings, naps, diaper changes, baths and a number of therapies to help with mobility, strength and eating. The girls respond especially well to music therapy and love it when Grandma sings to them during her visits. Their siblings, brother Isaiah, 15, Aaliyah and James, visit regularly, too. James loves to entertain them, and the girls respond with delight.

Their face-to-face positioning makes feedings and diaper changes a challenge, but nurses have developed creative workarounds to accomplish both. Most of the time they can be bottle-fed one at a time by a single caregiver, with AmieLynn often waiting patiently until sister is satisfied. When patience runs out, feeding is a two-person job.

The older they get, the more they move their limbs. It’s not uncommon for one to unintentionally punch and sometimes anger the other. The girls wear mittens to protect each other from scratches.

All the while doctors monitor their progress, study their anatomy and plan for the enormous task of separation. 

Journey to Separation

The timing of conjoined twin division varies from case to case and primarily depends on how complicated the anatomy is. In the girls’ case, their anatomy and growth support a surgery date sooner rather than later. Conjoined Twins 3D Model

While the girls are thriving in the NICU, they are not growing at the same rate, partly because they share some blood supply.

“One is stealing groceries from the other, basically,” Dr. Barber said.

AmieLynn is beginning to develop scoliosis. Feedings are becoming more and more challenging with their size, mobility and face-to-face proximity. While separate, their hearts are exceedingly close together and grow ever closer as the girls age.

They're pretty much at their maximal, I like to say, baby stretchability,” Dr. Iglesias said. “So their skin is pretty stretchy. Their abdominal walls are stretchy. We've got the benefits of using that. By separating early, they're not going to be as used to the loss of having essentially part of you that is different, so hopefully, that transition will be better. There are not very many more benefits to waiting longer versus doing it now.” 

At nearly 4-months-old, the time is right. JamieLynn and AmieLynn

It’s taken months of planning and collaboration. Countless hours have been spent building a comprehensive medical team, studying scans of the girls, building models of their anatomy, mapping out potential surgical solutions, identifying the what-ifs, troubleshooting potential problems, inventorying equipment needed to accomplish the surgery, preparing the operating room (OR) and rehearsing the carefully choreographed surgical production. Dr. Barber estimates there have been at least 100 medical professionals, from physicians to nurses to therapists and other clinical specialists, intimately involved in the girls’ care and surgical planning.

“I think the teamwork is a great point to bring up because it's everything,” Dr. Iglesias said. “It takes a huge team to get all of this working as smoothly as you can make it, given the unknowns that we'll have. Having everybody open and honest talking to each other regardless of their position, that's the definition of teamwork.”

The surgery comes with great risk and a number of unknowns. Because they must dissect the liver, an extremely vascular organ, bleeding is a concern. A significant risk of infection also exists, for which the twins will be monitored weeks into recovery. Doctors are unsure of how the babies’ hearts will respond to their new anatomic position as the girls lay on their backs for the first time in their lives. Then there are questions about how to best close the abdominal wall, many of which can not be fully answered until separation is accomplished. The girls may require additional surgeries to complete closure and reconstruction.

“In order to prepare for this, it's a lot of practice, practice, practice and more practice, trying to really think of every possible scenario so that we're not surprised by anything,” Dr. Barber said. “There's always going to be unexpected things, but if you're prepared for the worst possibilities and the most unlikely outcomes, then you can hopefully not get too caught off guard.”

For their part, mom and dad pray, leaning on the same faith in God that carried them through when their older children faced medical crises.

Separation Day

Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. JamieLynn and AmieLynn are ready for their big day. Thanks to their NICU nurse, they’re sporting fresh mani-pedis in their signature purple and green to help identify them in the OR. Mom Kiss Before Surgery

Before the sun rises, family and members of the medical team gather in the girls’ NICU room. It’s calm and quiet as mom and dad steal a few final pre-surgery kisses from their babies. Grandma sings softly. Others pray. The girls are awake, content and comfortable. Just before 7:30 a.m., they begin their journey to the OR.

Inside the OR is a sea of medical professionals: three anesthesiologists, four pediatric surgeons, two plastic surgeons and about a dozen other clinical professionals. They are separated into two teams, one for each girl. Those in purple scrub hats belong to JamieLynn’s squad, while Team AmieLynn dons the green. Everyone will work together until the babies are separated, then each team will focus solely on their assigned baby.

“The reason that's important is because you need focus,” Dr. Gbulie said. “You want to minimize room for errors and the risk of confusion. So little things like color-coding everyone and everything minimizes the risk of giving the wrong medication on either side. It's truly a community effort that involves a multi-specialty team.”Day of AmieLynn and JamieLynn Surgery

The first few hours involve inserting central lines for delivering anesthesia and placing breathing tubes. Then, sedation begins. The process is slow and methodical.

“When we're talking about taking care of conjoined twins compared to taking care of just a single baby, one of the biggest questions is what is shared, and there does seem to be some shared circulation between the girls,” said Chandra Reynolds, M.D., the lead Cook Children’s anesthesiologist on the surgical team. “What is the response going to be for baby B when we give baby A certain medication? It’s a very slow and stepwise approach until we better understand what happens to one when the other receives medication. The key thing is to give one baby a certain amount of medication, watch and wait for a while to see how things are going and, based on that response, we can give her sister a certain amount as well.” Surgery Walk Though

Once the girls are safely asleep, the surgeons begin marking incision lines. At 12:28 p.m., the separation officially begins. Guided by plastic surgeons, they are careful to make cuts that give the girls’ abdomens the best chance of closure.

First, surgeons open the abdominal wall and dissect the lower part of the sternum and the liver. A little under two hours in, the family receives word that the girls’ shared liver is separated. The private waiting area where the family anxiously awaits news of progress erupts with cheers. Finley and Arciniega embrace.

Surgeons painstakingly work layer-by-intricate-layer until they reach the backside of the abdominal wall where they complete the dissection.

The update everyone’s been waiting for comes at 3 p.m. JamieLynn and AmieLynn are officially separated and on their backs. Tears and shouts of praise flow from family and friends in the room. Their relief is palpable.

“I want to tell you that all of the people in there taking care of them cheered even louder than this,” said the nurse delivering the news, followed by laughter from the family.

There is still a long way to go.

“Once the babies are finally physically separated, then we have to initially look for other additional anomalies and see if there is anything else going on,” Dr. Iglesias said. “We transfer one baby to the other bed where one surgeon will follow and an additional surgeon will pick up with the other and continue to do the evaluation.” Day of AmieLynn and JamieLynn Surgery

Once each baby is ready for closure, their assigned pediatric surgeons, Dr. Iglesias for JamieLynn and Marty Knott, D.O, for AmieLynn, begin closing the chest and abdomen. Plastic surgeons Dr. Gbulie and Eric Hubli, M.D., Cook Children’s Surgeon in Chief and medical director of craniofacial and cleft surgery, assist with skin closure.

By 6 p.m., the surgery is complete. This time Dr. Iglesias, Dr. Gbulie and Dr. Knott deliver the news to the family.

“We did it,” Finley said in response. “I don’t know what I did, but we did it.”

To this Dr. Iglesias replies, “You trusted us. That’s what you did.”

All the while, neonatologists Dr. Barber and Dr. Lynch stand by for the girls’ post-surgery return to the NICU.

One by one, the sisters exit the OR on their way back to their familiar home away from home in the NICU. For the first time in their lives, they lay on their backs, each in their own crib. The family gets a momentary glimpse from afar as the girls are wheeled past the waiting room, and cheer them on as they pass. About an hour later, mom and dad are able to join the girls in the NICU.

The first look at their twins in separate beds brings a wave of emotion. For the first time, they must divide their attention between the two. They start with JamieLynn. Arciniega places her pinky finger in her baby’s hand.

“It’s OK, Mommy’s here,” she whispers. Day of AmieLynn and JamieLynn Surgery

Then to AmieLynn. Finley gushes about her strength and how proud he is of his quiet fighter.

It’s a monumental moment, but none of the physicians are ready to say “mission accomplished.”

“The challenges the girls may face after surgery are very difficult to fully prepare for,” Dr. Lynch explained. “We do still have some unknowns as far as how their shared vasculature and their shared anatomy and positioning over these last three months will affect them. As Dr. Barber alluded to earlier, we have to prepare for many different scenarios. The things that will worry us and that we’ll be the most focused on in the first few days are going to be breathing support and pain control. As you can imagine, this is an incredibly big surgery and pain control will be at the top of our list.” 

They’ll be watching for signs of infection, too.

“The soft tissue usually swells over the first two to three days,” Dr. Gbulie said. “If you get through those two to three days, you're usually OK. That being said, we are going to be going through potentially some bowel and definitely the liver, so there is a relatively higher risk of wound infection and that usually shows up at about five to 10 days.”

Road to Recovery

Recovery is best described as slow. Day of AmieLynn and JamieLynn Surgery

“I'm sure mom and dad are going to think we're moving in slow motion,” Dr. Iglesias said. “The first steps are going to be healing of the very large incision that is required to separate them. We have to wait for their gut to start to work before we start allowing nutrition to move through their intestines. Some of these things may require staged procedures so the family's ready that the abdominal closure may take more than one operation. We're hopeful it won’t, but that's a possibility.”

They’ll need extensive rehabilitation, too, which will include nutritionists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and more.

Doctors say they’re optimistic but will continue to hold their collective breath until they are waving goodbye to the girls as they leave Cook Children’s for their first ride home.

“I'm very hopeful that they're going to have a good recovery and lead healthy lives in the future,” Dr. Iglesias said. “They're going to have a bit of a ramp up from the recovery, but I think they're going to be able to get there eventually, and very close to normal if not completely normal.”

Until that chapter of this story begins, JamieLynn’s sassy spirit and AmieLynn’s sweet smile remain on full display as their NICU team continues to care for their daily medical, physical and emotional needs. This time, together, but separate.

Cook Children’s is a not-for-profit organization. Donations to Cook Children’s Health Foundation allow us to care for our families when and how they need us. Give today to support patient families like Jamie and Amie. Go here. To donate items at the Medical Center for Jamie and Amie, email

For Media: B-Roll of Amie and Jamie's Life-Changing Day