updated 8/28/2006 8:32:32 PM ET 2006-08-29T00:32:32

Three weeks after a marathon surgery to separate them, once-conjoined 4-year-old twins have been moved out a hospital intensive care unit — a sign that they are well on their way to healing, their father said Monday.

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Kendra and Maliyah Herrin were born in February 2002 conjoined at the mid-torso, sharing multiple internal organs, including just one kidney and a pair of legs. Separation surgery for the girls was delayed until this year because the shared kidney presented numerous medical complications.

"Their spirits are very high, they're happy as can be," Jake Herrin, 26, of North Salt Lake said at a news conference Monday.

"This morning they had a water fight with syringes," he said. "They were squirting me, they were squirting nurses, they were squirting each other."

Doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center successfully separated the blonde, blue-eyed girls in a 26-hour surgery that began Aug. 7. Their single pelvis was split and reconstructed. Each girl kept one leg.

Dialysis going better than expected
Kendra kept the single kidney and Maliyah was placed on dialysis in preparation for a transplant later this year. Dialysis treatment has gone better than expected, Jake Herrin said, and is only being administered every-other day.

Dr. Rebecka Meyers, who led the eight-member surgical team, has said the separation is believed to be the first successful surgery on conjoined twins that shared a kidney.

Overall, Kendra and Maliyah's extensive surgical wounds appear to be healing well, with only minor setbacks, primarily for Maliyah, who reacted poorly to a combination of seven pain medications and also had to have surgeons replace the first implanted dialysis catheter.

"I thought there would be bigger bumps in the road, but we've not really had anything too serious," Jake Herrin said. "We couldn't have asked for a better outcome."

It's unclear, however, when the twins might be ready to leave the hospital, their father said. The decision will depend on how the girls heal, and how well they eat. Heavy medications have curbed their appetites, and they rely on feeding tubes for nourishment.

Preparing for going home
The family is making some preparations for a homecoming: buying a second bed, a second car seat and some additional clothes for the girls, Jake Herrin said.

The girls seem emotionally accepting of their separation, although their father said it has highlighted their different personalities and their emotional interdependence.

Kendra has always been more dominant and more eager for separation, while Maliyah was quieter, seemed more hesitant about separation and has always looked to her sister to "make things OK," he said.

"Kendra has said she misses (being conjoined)," Jake Herrin said. "But we talk about it and tell them that when they go home, they can put their old shirts on and pretend they're still stuck together. They think that's funny."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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