Dennis Cook  /  AP
Dr. Gary Hartman, right, talks to reporters Friday at Children's Hospital in Washington as formerly conjoined twins Jade Buckles, held by her mother Melissa, and Erin Buckles, held by her father Kevin Buckles, prepare to leave the hospital following successful separation surgery.
updated 7/2/2004 6:00:38 PM ET 2004-07-02T22:00:38

Thirteen days after they were separated, the formerly conjoined twins Erin and Jade Buckles were released from the hospital Friday — several weeks earlier than expected.

The 4-month old girls headed home to Woodbridge, Va., from Children’s National Medical Center, where they were separated June 19.

“We’ll disconnect the phone, disconnect the doorbell and just enjoy our family for a few days,” said their father, Kevin Buckles, at a news conference shortly before the family left the hospital.

Buckles, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, said he had hoped they would be home for the Fourth of July but didn’t expect the girls to be released so soon after surgery. Lead surgeon Dr. Gary Hartman had estimated the girls would remain in the hospital for at least a few weeks.

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But they healed so swiftly that they did not need to stay, he said. On Thursday, the girls took all of their food through their mouths for the first time, which showed they could be released from the hospital, Hartman said.

Twins born joined from chests to abdomens
Doctors will meet with the family and the girls Tuesday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where the twins were born Feb. 26, about six weeks early.

The identical twins had been joined from their chests to their abdomens. They shared a liver, and one baby’s heart rested horizontally, protruding into the other girl’s chest cavity. Surgery to separate them took six hours and left the girls with a 14-centimeter scar from chest to abdomen.

They had been in critical but stable condition at the hospital following surgery and were taken off ventilators after three or four days. They recovered in separate ICU units. They will sleep in the same crib at home.

The girls will undergo physical and occupational therapy and may need some other therapy as well, Hartman said, adding that he did not know if other surgeries would be needed.

Hartman said there might be some delay in reaching their baby milestones, but by the time they turn one, they should be on track with normal one-year-olds.

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