A complex surgery to separate a pair of conjoined twins stretched into a nearly 30-hour marathon during the weekend but was finally completed at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The 7-month-old twins from Lacey had been taken into surgery at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Kathleen Faith and Charity Mae Lincoln were recovering in the infant intensive care unit of Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, where they are expected to remain for at least three weeks following the surgery.
"It was what we hoped for, a complete, safe separation for both girls, " said pediatric surgeon Dr. Robert Sawin, shortly after emerging from the operating room, where teams of pediatric specialists aided in the separation.
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The extensive surgery to divide shared organs and fused bones went very well, Sawin said, but the twins have a great deal of recovery ahead.
"They both have lots and lots of internal and external suture lines, and they'll need to heal up, " he said.
The twins were born Feb. 21 at the University of Washington Medical Center, joined through their abdomens and pelvises. In addition to sharing organs such as a liver, colon and bladder, and a fused pelvis, the twins shared one low-functioning leg, which was removed during surgery. Each baby was left with one leg after the operation.
The twins' parents, Greg and Vaneice Lincoln, were relieved and drained after the long procedure.
"I think you feel a mixture of things, " Vaneice said, about an hour after Charity and then Kathleen returned from the operating rooms. "Joy -"
"Exhaustion, " Greg added quickly, smiling.
"You can let your breath out. You can relax a little, " Vaneice said.
The long wait had been eased by regular updates from caring nurses, the parents said.
"All we had gotten were positive reports every two hours since they went in 30 hours ago, " Greg said. "Getting the updates was really emotional."
"It could have been really miserable without that, " Vaneice agreed.
Getting paged by nurses could be a little nerve-wracking, she said, "But at the same time, you're anxious to hear what's going on, so you want to get those pages."
One of the more tense updates of the surgery came Saturday, when the parents learned five hours into the operation that the separation was actually possible - the babies had the critical organs they needed to each survive and thrive, with some reconstruction help from physicians.
The next big moment of many big moments arrived at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, when Greg and Vaneice were summoned for another update.
Vaneice returned to her and Greg's parents and her grandmother in a waiting area, and held up two fingers.
"Two words, " she said, smiling slightly. "They're apart."
The grandparents gasped slightly, clasped hands, and said prayers of thanks. "That is so good to finally hear that, " said Lola Ward, Vaneice's mother, who lives near Boise, Idaho.
Greg's mother, Lorinda Lincoln, quickly picked up a phone to call family members waiting for word in Thurston County. "They're apart, " she said simply into the phone. "They're doing the reconstruction now. All apart."
The news helped lift the mood of the weary group, which had not left the hospital in nearly 24 hours. And they would not leave for many more.
After several more pages from nurses, Greg returned from a 1 p.m. update and said, "We're going over to wait for Charity." The first baby to emerge from surgery was ready to return.
She arrived, tiny and sleeping, covered in tubes and surrounded by doctors and nurses in aqua-colored surgical gowns. It was the first time her family had ever seen her lying fully on her back, looking almost like any sleeping infant. About an hour later, Kathleen arrived in much the same way.
The twins remain in the same room in intensive care, but now they sleep about 10 feet apart. Shortly after both babies had returned from surgery, Greg leaned close over Charity's crib to speak to his daughter and Vaneice bent over Kathleen.
It was what the parents had been waiting for since their rare daughters were born.
Several days before surgery, Greg and Vaneice celebrated in advance by buying a second car seat, which was "exciting, " Vaneice said at the time.
"I'm really ready for it. Some days you think of all that they have to go through. You never like to see your children in pain, " she said.
"I'm just looking forward to them being able to grow and form normally. They're two distinct people."
In addition to the strong support of family, friends and church - the Lincolns attend the Church of God Seventh Day in Tacoma - Vaneice said she has been strengthened by envisioning her daughters as separate people.
"My holding one and Greg holding the other. That will be pretty neat."