Mother of conjoined twins to give birth in Colorado

AURORA – Amber McCullough is looking at Wednesday with mixed emotions.

**UPDATE - Doctors at the Colorado Fetal Care Center at Children's Hospital Colorado are attending to Amber McCullough's conjoined daughters. They were scheduled to be delivered by Caesarian-section first thing in the morning. Directly after, doctors would start work on the separation surgery. 9NEWS has not received any updates on how the procedures have progressed. The fetal team's decision at Children's Colorado wants their sole focus to be on the delicate and precise care required. The twin sisters Hannah and Olivia were joined at the chest, stomach and hips. During the pregnancy, their mother had learned that Olivia would not survive because of her non-functional heart. Amber McCullough is very thankful for the support and prayers from so many people who are concerned for her family.**

The Minnesota mother will deliver twin girls at the Colorado Fetal Care Center at Children's Hospital Colorado via C-section. No matter what, one of her daughters will not survive.

"I'm anxious and excited for Hannah and dreading what it means for Olivia," McCullough said.

Hannah and Olivia are conjoined twins who will be delivered by Caesarian section at 32 weeks gestation.

"I will get to see my girls very briefly after the delivery," McCullough said. "They will need to be intubated right away, but the doctors will hold them up real quick and I'll get a peek."

McCullough doesn't expect to have the chance to hold her daughters before doctors start the 8 to 12 hour surgery it will require to separate them.

McCullough says her daughters are joined at the chest, stomach and hips. Hannah and Olivia share an abdomen, liver and intestinal tract. The girls have separate hearts and kidneys.

"If I had my way, I'd keep them together if they both could live," McCullough said. "But it's not possible. I wish it were. If they stay together, they'll both pass."

During her pregnancy, McCullough was overwhelmed with the opinions of doctors, friends and family.

She knew she wanted to carry her daughters and give them a shot at life even though the odds were stacked against them.

"I just can't lose both," McCullough said. "There's a chance of saving one."

The latest statistics reveal conjoined twins occur once in every 200,000 births. Forty to 60 percent of conjoined twins are stillborn. Thirty-five percent survive only one day.

Hannah and Olivia fared well during the pregnancy. Doctors have told McCullough that once the umbilical cord is cut after delivery, the girls will be tested.

Olivia is not expected to survive because of her heart. She only has a single ventricle and is missing valves.

Hannah's future is uncertain. She will face challenges which, for now, remain a mystery.

"We'll just have some things to work out as we go forward," McCullough said. "I'm going to make dang sure she's happy and comfortable."

Because she expects Hannah to need extensive care, McCullough is moving to Denver. Her 6-year-old son, Tristan, is getting ready to move out in a few weeks.

McCullough and Tristan's father are divorced.

Last fall, she entered a new relationship which led to her pregnancy.

It wasn't until her second trimester when she learned she was carrying conjoined twins. The relationship with the girl's dad ended shortly thereafter.

McCullough has lived at the Ronald McDonald House in Aurora since early August. Her stepmother is there, keeping her company and caring for her.

McCullough has also spent the month talking with a bereavement doula who has helped her sort through her feelings.

"This is not something you can be ready for," McCullough said. "Nobody is ready to lose a child no matter what the circumstances."

McCullough brought with her to Denver a large suitcase filled with stuffed animals and baby clothing she received from friends and family back in Minnesota.

McCullough's friends organized a "prayer shower" for her before she moved. They also gave her keepsakes that honor both babies' lives.

"I can't stress how comforting it has been… all the people saying prayers for us," McCullough said. "I really believe prayer took us a long way and got us here. I think it can take us a lot further."

McCullough spent eight years in the United States Army before she went to law school and became an attorney.

The commitment and work ethic she practiced during her years of military service shine through in this new battle.

"You're not supposed to leave a fallen soldier even if they've passed," McCullough said. "I can't do that with my kids."

At the Colorado Fetal Care Center at Children's Hospital Colorado, she is under the care of renowned fetal surgeon Dr. Timothy M. Crombleholme.

"The sacred things in life are always worth fighting for," McCullough said. "You children will always be the most sacred thing for you in life. No matter what… born, unborn, disabled, able-bodied. Fighting for them is something you'll never forget."

McCullough writes more about her journey with her girls on her GoFundMe page: http://bit.ly/1NSVef9.

To see the original story on McCullough from Minnesota: http://kare11.tv/1WJ0TKO

(© 2015 KUSA)


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