Image: Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim
L.m. Otero  /  AP
Wearing helmets for protection, Mohamed, right, kisses his twin brother Ahmed Ibrahim at their family's apartment in Dallas on Nov.
updated 11/18/2005 2:58:08 PM ET 2005-11-18T19:58:08

Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim arrived in the United States more than three years ago as babies fused at the tops of their heads. On Saturday, the 4-year-olds will return home to Egypt as two boys living independent lives.

The youngsters were surgically separated in October 2003 in a 34-hour operation that doctors had warned could result in the deaths of one or both of the boys.

“When we came here we don’t know what’s going to happen with the future, but now with the doctors’ and God’s help, we have two healthy kids,” their mother, Sabah Abu el-Wafa, said through a translator as they prepared this week for the trip home.

The boys were born in 2001 in Egypt and came to Dallas a year later so doctors could determine whether they could be separated.

With their parents hoping their sons could one day lead normal lives, doctors decided to go forward with the surgery. More than 50 medical personnel, including several neurosurgeons and plastic surgeons, took part in the operation at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

As family and friends held their breath, a nurse held up two fingers and announced: “We have two boys.” Their mother cried and their father fainted.

Since then, the boys have undergone extensive therapy and had surgery to reconstruct their skulls, though they still must wear helmets for protection.

The bright-eyed twins are full of energy these days, bopping to Arabic music in the Dallas apartment they have shared with their parents during their time here.

Mohamed, who is walking now, has the dance moves. The quieter Ahmed, who gets around with the help of a walker, prefers to listen to the music while cuddled up with a family friend who sways to the beat. They have come a long way in just being able to move around.

Kristen DeMura, a pediatric physical therapist at Medical City Children’s hospital, said that when she began working with the boys about five months after their separation, they needed to learn to sit up, crawl, roll over, stand and walk.

“Even just the basic things like them sitting on their own, it took awhile for them to be independent,” she said.

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Both boys know words in Arabic and English, often answering a question in one language with a word from the other.

“Developmentally, they’re coming along fine,” said Dr. Kenneth Salyer, a surgeon who founded the World Craniofacial Foundation that brought the boys to Dallas.

He said no additional operations are planned, but he will check on them again in six months to a year to see if it is time to remove the helmets.

Ahmed still has one area on his skull that is soft, but it is gradually filling in, Salyer said. He said Mohamed’s skull is healed and solid, but the helmet offers protection: “He wants to turn somersaults and his head isn’t ready for somersaults.”

Their parents, who are from the village of el-Homr in southern Egypt, are now preparing for life in Cairo. The big city will allow the boys to continue physical therapy.

Their father, Ibrahim Mohammed Ibrahim, said that while he does not know whether Mohamed’s weak right arm will recover, he envisions the rambunctious boy becoming a pilot. As for the more thoughtful Ahmed, Ibrahim thinks he could become a doctor. Ahmed’s mother said she could see him as writer because of his good memory.

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