MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Erickson’s family of four recently grew in a way they never could have expected. In week 17 of Kate’s pregnancy, she got the news.

“It was just shock,” she recalled, finding out that she was having two children, conjoined in one.

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A live birth of conjoined twins only happens about once every three years in Minnesota.

“We were just so worried, all the possibilities going through your head, are we gonna make it out of this with any babies at all,” said Kate.

But they did, in November of 2019. Remi and Reese were born safely together.

“Everyone in the operating room was smiling, they had masks on but you could still see them smiling,” said Robert Erickson.

“Seeing them it was just instant love, just like you would a normal baby so you didn’t even think twice about them being conjoined really,” Kate.

Turns out their shared body saved Reese from a deadly heart condition, stunning even their doctor.

“Without Remi, our thought is that Reese probably had a very low chance of surviving by herself,” said Dr. Joseph Lillegard, a Surgeon with Children’s Minnesota. “That’s a pretty remarkable scenario.”

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Lillegard was then tasked with another scenario – how to separate Remi and Reese – a procedure he’s assisted with three times at Children’s Minnesota.

“It’s an emotional journey with the family because you are preparing them for the possibility things don’t go the way you hope them to go,” said Lillegard.

But after a seven-hour surgery, it did end up well. Lillegard and 19 others separated the girls’ chests, abdomens, and shared liver.

“We had gotten so used to seeing them conjoined, and once the separation happened, it was like they were reborn,” said Robert.

The family spent a year in the hospital really got to know Children’s Minnesota.

“I think that’s what got us through it, to know that that hospital was completely equipped to get our girls healthy and home one day,” said Kate.

Now, the girls are home – Remi is running around and expected to have no lasting health effects. Reese is working through breathing issues, and her heart will need lifelong care, but she is making strides with her sister, who is still by her side.

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You can help families like the Ericksons by donating to Children’s Minnesota. The non-profit health care system doesn’t turn away patients. Donations make that possible, helping to pay for patients who can’t afford to pay. Right now, anything you give up to $10,000 will be doubled, thanks to a matching donation from Karena and Walter White. To give, you can text “MN Brighter” to 50155 or head to wcco.com/brighter.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield