Twins Rosie and Ruby Formosa, who were born joined at the abdomen and shared part of an intestine, are ready to start a new journey of their lives in September. The sisters are all set to go to school four years after separation surgery.
When they were born in 2012 at University College hospital in London their parents Angela and Daniel Formosa were told the conjoined girls had only a slim chance of survival.
But surgeons at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) were able to separate them in a five-hour long operation, soon after they were born. Since then, the identical twins from Bexleyheath in Kent are leading healthy lives and are "very excited" to go to school.
"Four years ago it wasn't in my mind that this would ever happen. When I was pregnant I didn't think I'd ever see their first day at school," their mother Angela said.
"At 16 weeks they sent me to King's College hospital and it was there that they discovered the connection between the girls. It was heartbreaking really — I was already worried that they were monoamniotic [where twins share an amniotic sac], and conjoined was the worst-case scenario.
"I was really, really, really scared and really upset because at that point I was told that there was a high possibility that the girls wouldn't survive the pregnancy. And if they did survive the pregnancy they might not survive the birth, then they might not survive surgery," she said.
But staff and doctors at Gosh made the impossible possible, Angela said. "The time has just flown by; I can't believe how fast it has gone. They are very excited [about starting school]; their big sister is in school so they can't wait.
"They are very similar, they are very bubbly little girls, they are very headstrong and very determined, which I knew they were from when they were in my belly because of the way they kept growing and surviving. I knew they were going to be determined and they are. They rule the roost," the mother-of-three said.
"We're thrilled that Rosie and Ruby are starting school this September. It's always a joy to witness patients' progress and to hear that they are reaching new milestones — this makes the job we do all the more rewarding," Professor Paolo De Coppi, consultant paediatric surgeon at the hospital, said.
Gosh hospital is a prominent centre in Europe for the care of conjoined twins. Since 1985, the hospital has cared for at least 27 sets of twins.