The physicians who have worked with the twins over the years are amazed at their grit and thrilled to "watch them grow independently and to thrive."
Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas almost didn't make it alive, but now, over two decades later, they are celebrating a rather big milestone in their lives.
Conjoined at birth, the twins traveled from a small village in Guatemala to undergo high-risk separation surgery at UCLA in 2002, a year after they were born.
In a condition that affects only one in every 2-and-a-half million babies, they were joined at the head. On the surgical team that treated Hull and Cajas was Dr. Mark Urata, an oral and plastic surgeon at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
“Josie and Teresa shared a blood supply because they were connected at the brain. The brain tissue had to be separated,” he explained to ABC7 News.
However, Hull and Cajas experienced difficulties during their 23-hour surgery, including brain infections that caused Cajas to sustain lifelong brain damage and seizures in Hull. But they fought and made it through.
Now, even though they live with different families, they are still very close and make sure to be there for all of their important milestones. Their parents had to make the excruciating decision to allow their daughters' American hosts to adopt them. But they're still in touch. "We talk every Sunday," Hull said. "They're really proud of both of us." The two also reunite for important moments like their 10th birthday, quinceañera, and just recently, their 21st birthday.
"In the eyes of the world they're both deemed challenged, but they've touched so many lives," Josie's mom, Jenny Hull, told PEOPLE. "This birthday is such a huge milestone to celebrate."
Hull is currently the founder of Once Upon a Room, a nonprofit organization, with a friend when they were both 12 years old. In 20 hospitals around the country, the group cheers up pediatric patients by decorating the hospital rooms. These days, Hull's life involves flying around the country and decorating pediatric hospital rooms with her nonprofit. "That's really important to me," said Hull, adding, "Just be happy. And just keep moving on and moving forward."
Josie Hull and Teresa Cajas are celebrating a huge milestone many didn’t think would happen.— ABC News (@ABC) August 16, 2022
Not only are they celebrating their 21st birthday, the siblings also celebrating the 20th anniversary of their physical separation. https://t.co/GZdFQ9NfLJ
Of Cajas, Hull said, "I adore her. She can't walk or talk, but I can understand her and she can understand me. We communicate through our eyes."
“To watch them grow independently and to thrive has been probably one of the greatest joys of both my personal and professional life,” Dr Urata said.
Even the physicians who have worked with the twins over the years are amazed at their grit. "None of this would have been possible without the care and love that their families have put in over all these years to maximize their potential," says Dr. Robert Kay, chief of orthopedic surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Cover Image Source: YouTube | Good Morning America