Carmen and Lupita Andrade are a somewhat different type of conjoined twins. Most conjoined twins are stillborn or die shortly after birth. The Andrade sisters, who are now 16, are attached along their chest walls down to their pelvis where their spines meet. They each have two arms, but only a single leg, with Carmen controlling the right and Lupita, the left. The girls each have a heart, a set of arms, a set of lungs and a stomach, but they share some ribs, a liver, their circulatory system, and their digestive and reproductive systems. Years ago, they spent long hours in physical therapy, learning how to get up off their backs and sit and use their legs together. At the age of 4, they took their first steps.
When they were tiny, doctors considered separating them, but concluded it couldn’t be done safely. They have learned to balance and coordinate every move, bracing themselves at times to offset the strain of supporting two upper bodies on one set of hips and one pair of legs.
They lead a fairly normal life. They go to high school every day. They have a raft of friends. Carmen in learning to drive a car.
But Lupita is having trouble breathing. A curvature in her spine has reduced her breathing to 40% of her lung capacity. The odds of a successful operation are not very good.