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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Separated twins 'open their eyes'
Medical staff attend to Maria Teresa on Tuesday
One twin, Maria Teresa, needed extra surgery
The Guatemalan twins born joined at the head and separated in a lengthy operation at a US hospital this week have opened their eyes and moved their hands, according to doctors.

Staff at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles say the one-year-old twins, Maria de Jesus and Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez, are now responding to stimulation after being taken off powerful paralysing drugs.

Maria de Jesus watches as she and her sister are prepared for surgery
Because of the way they were joined, they have never seen each other

"Both have opened their eyes and moved a little bit," said Dr Andy Madikians, the twins' intensive-care physician.

The two girls remain in a critical but stable condition, breathing with respirators as they recover from the 22-hour operation on Tuesday that separated them.

One twin weaker

One twin, Maria de Jesus, can look around and move her arms and legs, Dr Madikians said, but her sister has shown less movement.

She had an extra five-hour operation to stop bleeding on the brain after separation.

"I think what we're seeing is what we expect to see at this point," Dr Madikians said.

Earlier on Thursday, doctors said Maria de Jesus had showed the first signs of recovery by fluttering her eyelids.

The twins were given powerful drugs to keep them from moving - or even coughing - during the operation and the early stages of their recovery, to give their delicate wounds time to heal.

Doctor Andy Madikians speaks to reporters on 8 August
Dr Madikians: 'Still many medical hurdles to cross'

They were born to a couple in rural Guatemala with their skulls attached, and their faces pointing in opposite directions.

Mother Alba Leticia Alvarez, 23, finally gave birth by caesarean section after eight days of labour.

She and the girls' father, 21-year-old banana packer Wenceslao Quiej Lopez, came to Los Angeles two months ago after a non-profit group raised funds for the twins' treatment in California.

The girls are expected to remain in intensive care for several weeks, and Dr Madikians said it was too early to predict when they would be breathing without respirators.

More operations

Even if all goes well, the twins will need more operations, including ones to reconstruct their scalps and skulls, when they are around four or five years old.

They now have just thin patches of skin covering parts of their heads where they were separated.

Dr Madikians said his team will be watching the twins closely in the coming days, hoping for "more movement, more eye opening and more responsiveness".

The charity Heal the Children arranged for the twins to receive treatment at the UCLA Medical Centre, which cost $1.5m, although many of the doctors worked for free.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Willis reports from Los Angeles
"Doctors say the twins are doing extremely well"
See also:

06 Aug 02 | Americas
06 Aug 02 | Americas
15 May 02 | Africa
01 May 02 | Health
30 Apr 02 | Health
25 Aug 00 | Q-S
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