It’s as heart-wrenching a moment as any expectant mother can experience – being told by a medical professional that the best course of action is to terminate the pregnancy. But Shellie Tucker wasn’t prepared to accept that destiny; what happened next will astonish you.
Shellie has been married to her loving husband, Greg, since 2009. Together, they hail from Adams, New York, where, until mid 2011, they lived with their only son, Owen.
Greg and Shellie had faced difficulties getting pregnant the first time around, and it seemed almost impossible that they’d be able to replicate that feat. Indeed, the couple spent months trying with no success.
Desperate, the Tuckers turned to fertility treatment for help. And, not long after, they received some wonderful news: Shellie was pregnant again. That in itself was almost miraculous enough, but more was yet to come.
All was not as well as it seemed. Twenty weeks into the pregnancy, Shellie went for a routine ultrasound scan only to discover that she was expecting twins. But not just ordinary twins; these were conjoined twins.
The most popular theory concerning how conjoining occurs is through fission, in which the fertilized egg only partially separates. And while it can happen to anyone, it’s most commonly found in Brazil, Africa and Southeast Asia.
In fact, conjoined twins are probably not as rare as you think. One in every 50,000 or so births is affected by the condition, with the majority of sufferers being tragically stillborn or dying within the first 24 hours.
It was perhaps something of a surprise, therefore, when Shellie was advised by her doctor to terminate the pregnancy. The fact that he was a specialist in high-risk pregnancies only made matters worse – after all, if he didn’t think the babies would survive, what chance did they have?
Nevertheless, a naturally distraught Shellie was determined not to give up. “I could literally feel the girls kicking in my belly and I knew that [an abortion] wasn’t something possible,” she told Good Morning America.
Resolute, Shellie and Greg sought a second opinion. Moreover, miraculously, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) gave the couple renewed hope. Doctors there were confident that the babies could be separated after birth.
With fresh resolve, the Tuckers pressed ahead with the pregnancy, and Shellie carried the twins to term. In March 2012, the expectant mom was brought in for an emergency cesarean and gave birth to twin girls, Amelia and Allison Tucker.
The doctors’ predictions were confirmed immediately, with the babies being conjoined at the abdomen and lower chest. They also shared multiple organs, including their liver.
In the months that followed, the family lived at the hospital while Amelia and Allison were getting ready for surgery. Then, on November 7, 2012, the day of the operation finally arrived.
The procedure lasted a grueling seven hours and required a highly-skilled team of doctors and nurses. Forty medical professionals worked tirelessly to separate the conjoined twins while Greg and Shellie waited with bated breath.
Eventually, the news everyone had been waiting for arrived; the operation had been a complete success. The girls had been separated, and both had survived the complex surgery.
During the girls’ ordeal, Shellie maintained an online blog to provide updates for friends, family and well-wishers. After the operation the overwhelmed mom wrote, “Today it is a time to celebrate, to be thankful, to appreciate, to praise and to enjoy this weight lifted off our shoulders.”
Allison was discharged from hospital on December 17, 2012, meaning she could spend her first Christmas at home. Unfortunately, Amelia’s recovery time was a little longer, but the important thing was that they were both alive and well.
In fact, the doctors were optimistic that the twins would grow up to live normal, healthy and happy lives. Whether that would come to fruition, however, remained to be seen.
So where are the girls now, in 2016? Well, they’re at home, living normal, healthy and happy lives with Greg, Shellie and Owen. In fact, if you didn’t know already, there’d be no way of telling that the four-year-old twins once shared more than just a womb. Their transformation is astonishing, and Shellie and Greg are no doubt forever thankful that they approached the Children’s Hospital.
Shellie now spends her days raising money and awareness for CHOP and kids in situations like Amelia and Allison. She’s confident that her own girls will be just as successful, too, writing on her blog, “These girls are going to do big things in life!”