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Inside Dateline: Fargo conjoined twins, now separated

Producer: I feel extremely fortunate to report on the Carlsens' journey -- where hope, faith and medical science came together, and produced a miracle

May |

The Carlsens' journey (Kim Krawitz, Producer)

We set up our cameras in a private wing of the Mayo Clinic that's reserved for  movie stars but the people we were about to interview were a down to earth mom and dad from Fargo, North Dakota who were very worried about their twin baby girls Abby and Belle.  Amy and Jesse Carlsen's daughters were conjoined and surgeons at the Mayo Clinic were going to separate them.

And as surgery began on Friday morning May 12th, the Carlsens were strong. They carried their babies into the operating room, joined together for the last time. The Carlsens left for the waiting room as the medical team began the 10 hour procedure.

I waited in a media room, filled with more than thirty reporters and several camera crews. Everyone was anxious. I couldn't even begin to imagine what the family was going through. Everyone was praying that the girls would make it through surgery. When we interviewed the lead surgeon, Dr Moir, he had told us that if things were to go wrong in surgery, they could go wrong very fast. Remembering what he said gave me chills.

Every few hours, we received an update from Mayo's media spokesperson. Every time the spokesperson entered, the room became quiet. I felt my heart race. I had gotten to know the Carlsens well over the past 5 months, and wanted only the best for them. I couldn't imagine how they'd deal with losing a child, possibly both. I was personally afraid for what might happen.

By mid-afternoon, the Carlsens invited our crew to join them in the waiting room. There, we found Jesse and Amy surrounded by family-- reading, sharing stories, laughing. Amy was looking at photographs of her baby girls. There was optimism in that room. I was glad to see this.

And when the Carlsens received the news they'd been waiting for all day-- we were there as well. Amy blurted out "we have two separate babies!"  Everyone cheered. The two print journalists next to me scrambled notes as fast as the could.  For a second, they both looked at me, and smiled. My eyes had filled with tears of joy; I think theirs had too. It was wonderful after all this time, to finally watch the Carlsens hug and cheer. They deserved all the happiness in the world.

** FILE ** Jesse Carlsen, left, and Amy Carlsen, right, of Fargo, N.D., talk to their daughter Abby, bottom, while her sister Belle sleeps at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minn., Thursday, April 13, 2006. Abby and Isabelle Carlsen, who were born in November, are slated for surgery Friday, May 12, at the Mayo Clinic to separate them. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt,file)Ann Heisenfelt / AP

As soon as surgery was over, a press conference followed. I sat in the audience, with  media, family members, and individuals who had helped  care for the girls during their two and a half month stay at Mayo. When the surgical team entered the room, followed by Dr Moir, Jesse and Amy, there was great applause. It was like the curtain call at the end of a great Broadway show.

Throughout the terrifying ordeal, Jesse's strength always amazed me. He told me it was because he needed to make sure Amy and the babies were ok. But when he thanked the doctors who saved his babies, he choked up. He said "Today our prayers have been answered. And I can't say thank you enough for, helping our girls. thank you all."  And I do believe I saw a tear.

When we asked Jesse and Amy  what they wanted for their girls, they responded, "The world.  Anything they want."  And I think that dream is coming true...

Earlier this week, Abby and Belle came off their ventilators, and are now breathing on their own. On Tuesday, their mom and dad finally held them in their arms for the first time.

As a producer, I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to report on the Carlsens' journey -- where hope, faith and medical science came together, and produced a miracle.

The report on Abby and Belle airs Dateline Sunday, 7 p.m.