Separated twins: After hardest surgery, the quickest recovery

Updated 12:08 PM EST, Tue November 22, 2016
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Story highlights

Parents are in awe as they see Jadon for first time without head dressing

Brother Anias appears to be getting stronger, doctor says

Plastic surgeon: "The whole world has gotten behind these kids"

(CNN) —  

The white dressing covering Jadon’s head is gently unwrapped, revealing a perfectly shaped head and a hairline with a natural curl.

It’s the first time his parents have seen him without his bandages in four weeks. That’s when he and his twin brother, Anias, born conjoined at the head, were separated in a 27-hour surgery at the Children’s Hospital at Montifiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

Mother Nicole McDonald stands at his bedside in awe. Although new bandages will be put on, the sight is breathtaking. “It’s the most amazing thing. I just can’t even believe it,” she says. “And look at his little hair. On top, it’s growing in!”

His father, Christian McDonald, leans in. “Hey there, my man,” he says, “You sure are handsome. Look at you. You look like a perfect little boy.”

Jadon stares up at them, waving his right hand. He then taps the top of his head.

“How does it feel to be your own little boy?” Dad asks. Mom mimics her son, touching her own head and, imagining what he’s thinking, asks, “Where’s my brother?”

Anias rests in his bed across the room, near a window. His head remains wrapped. “You’ve been having a tougher go of it, but you’re going to get through it,” Dad tells him.

The boys, now 14 months old, are set to move to rehab shortly after Thanksgiving, about six weeks after the surgery to separate them. The world’s previous record for recovery from such an operation, known as craniopagus surgery, was eight weeks. Many separated twins remain hospitalized for months.

Lead surgeon Dr. James Goodrich is checking on the twins in their 10th floor room on a rainy, unseasonably warm November afternoon. He’s considered the leading expert in the world on twins conjoined at the head, and this was his seventh craniopagus operation. But it was also his most complicated: the boys’ brains so intertwined, Goodrich considered stopping hours into the operation.

“Historically, this will be the fastest (recovery),” Goodrich says at Jadon’s bedside.

“I didn’t know that,” Nicole responds. “So they were maybe your hardest set, but the fastest ones out of the hospital.”

Goodrich nods. He attributes their remarkable recovery to one thing: “Just good kids.”

The surgeon marvels at how well Jadon and Anias are doing. “I’m the least complaining person in this room,” he says. “When they’re ahead of schedule, it makes everyone happy.”

Jadon is a bundle of energy – “a crazy wild man,” in his mother’s words. He chews on wires. He reaches for faces. He locks onto a gaze and smiles. He tugs at the dressing when it’s covering his head. It seems he can hardly be confined to his bed.

With twins joined at the head, Goodrich explains, there’s always a dominant child where one child does double the work, that child’s heart and lungs working overtime to keep both boys alive. In this case, Anias is the non-dominant child who has struggled with breathing and eating, even prior to the surgery. But Anias is progressing well, the doctors say, getting stronger since the surgery.

He often shrinks when people in scrubs approach, as if fearful he might ha