Tina Fineberg  /  AP file
Dr. Tammy Feldman, left, checks Clarence Aguirre's feeding tube on March 25, as Clarence's twin brother, Carl, rests, and their mother, Arlene, center, stands by at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York.
updated 4/21/2005 3:08:41 PM ET 2005-04-21T19:08:41

As they turn 3, once-conjoined twins from the Philippines have reached a milestone any toddler — and any parent — can be proud of: They started saying “Thank you.”

Less than eight months after their dramatic separation, Carl and Clarence Aguirre are slowly catching up to children their own age and are impressing doctors and therapists with their good spirits.

The boys were born April 21, 2002, joined at the tops of their heads. They’ll celebrate their birthday Thursday afternoon the cake and ice cream.

“They’re really sweet, lighthearted kids,” said Julie Knitter, director of occupational therapy at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla. “They’re delayed for their age, always have been, but they are making headway in each skill area.”

The boys are not walking yet, but they can sit without support, pull themselves up to standing positions and even ride tricycles with help. Their speech is still a concern, with no full sentences, but they understand much more than they say, according to their pediatrician, Dr. Robert Marion.

“You tell Carl, ‘Touch your toes,’ and he touches his toes,” the doctor said.

Among the words and phrases they know are “hi,” “bye” and “thank you,” he said.

Interested in each other
Knitter said the brothers, who could not see each other for their first 2 1/2 years, have shown increasing interest in each other since the separation.

“At first they didn’t know much about each other, but now they show more interest in each other than in anyone else,” she said. “If one of them is mad, the other thinks that’s really funny.”

The boys were separated at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, where surgeons used an innovative gradual approach to separate them with four operations over 10 months. The last surgery was Aug. 4.

Carl and Clarence must go back for reconstruction of their skulls, but the rehabilitation process has been going so well that doctors are reluctant to interrupt it for a lengthy hospital stay.

Marion said the boys’ progress “has been amazing to watch.”

“I opened the door and here’s Carl coming directly at me on a tricycle. I’m thinking, ‘This is a miracle,’ he said.

“If these boys had not come to us when they did, they were going to die.”

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