Mother desperate for help for her conjoined twins who share a heart

Mother gives birth to conjoined twins who share a heart and liver – but doctors say they won’t separate the girls because one would die

  • Jennifer Pamela Martinez, 27, had not heard of the condition before it happened
  • Her babies, Maria Jose and Maria Fernandez, are being kept alive in hospital
  • Ms Martinez, from Honduras, wants another doctor’s opinion on her options

A mother-of-four living in Honduras is desperately seeking help after giving birth to conjoined twins whom doctors refuse to separate because one would die.

Jennifer Pamela Martinez, 27, gave birth to the twin girls, who share a heart and liver, by caesarean section.

The babies are relying on extra oxygen to keep them alive and are fused by their chests and abdomens, meaning they face each other. 

Their parents have admitted they will struggle to afford specialist care for them. 

Ms Martinez said she had been delighted when she found out she was expecting twins, but when doctors told her it was Siamese twins she had not even heard of the condition.

They remain in the Escuela Universitario hospital in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa – about 75 miles from the border with Nicaragua – where doctors are keeping them alive.

But Ms Martinez says she loves them just as much as her other children and is desperate to find an overseas doctor who can save them.

Maria Fernandez and Maria Jose Martinez were born by caesarean section and are joined by the chest and abdomen, sharing a heart and liver


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About one in every 200,000 live births in the world are conjoined twins, although on around 35 per cent of them survive for more than a day.

Because the condition is rare it is difficult to study so is not fully understood.

However, it is thought to be caused when a woman’s fertilised egg splits into two – the process which produces twins – but does not fully separate.

Ms Martinez’s daughters, Maria Fernandez and Maria Jose, have to remain in hospital because their blood is not oxygenating properly – likely because they only have one heart between them.   

However, they are able to eat, according to the hospital. 

27-year-old mother Jennifer Martinez says she had not even heard of conjoined twins before it happened to her, and she is desperate for a doctor to save her babies 

The girls are being kept at Escuela Universitario hospital in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa where they rely on extra oxygen to keep them alive


Conjoined twins occur when siblings have their skin or internal organs fused together.

It affects around one in 200,000 live births.

Conjoined twins are caused by a fertilised egg beginning to split into two embryos a few weeks after conception, but the process stops before it is complete.

The most common type is twins joined at the chest or abdomen.

Separation surgery success depends on where the twins are joined.

Doctors can only tell which organs the siblings share, and therefore plan surgery, after they are born. 

At least one twin survives 75 per cent of the time. 

The condition is also known as Siamese twins, named after the first pair of internationally famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874), who were from Siam.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center 

Separation would kill one of the twins, hospital says 

Miguel Osorio, spokesman of the hospital said ‘a separation is not possible’ because surgery would involve the death of one of them and ‘we are not going to do that’.

Ms Martinez and her husband, who only has casual employment, are in search of help in looking after their babies.

The couple say they will struggle to provide the girls with the specialist care they will need, as well as nappies, milk and clothes.

Ms Martinez added she is also desperate to find a second opinion from an overseas medical team about what the future might hold for her babies.

‘I love my newborns the same as my other children’ 

The mother-of-four said of shock at the diagnosis: ‘I did not know what Siamese meant and searched on the internet and I got shocked because it is not an easy thing.

‘I feel the same love for my two newborns that I feel for my other two children, I love both the same.’   

Conjoined twins bodies can be connected by any part of the body but thoraco-omphalopagus twins, like Maria Fernandez and Maria Jose, are most common and make up around 28 per cent of cases. 

Doctors are unsure why, but about 70 percent of conjoined twins are girls, who tend to have better survival rates than boys do after birth.

The condition is also known as Siamese twins, named after the first pair of internationally famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874), who were from Siam. 

Texas sisters joined in the same way were successfully separated 

A pair of sisters in Texas who were joined in the same way as the Honduran twins, and also shared a heart and liver, were successfully separated in January this year. 

Anna Grace and Hope Elizabeth Richards were born attached at the chest and abdomen when they were born on December 29, 2016.

Conjoined twin girls Hope and Anna Richards were successfully separated in January

One of the teams of doctors that operated on Anna and Hope makes an incision in the girls’ shared skin, an early step in their separation

After spending a year in a neonatal intensive care unit sharing a liver, diaphragm and part of a heart, they were carefully split during a seven-hour surgery on January 13.

The operation took place at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where a team of 75 surgeons, specialists and nurses practised the procedure for months.

The shared heart was split into two and each had their own blood supply connected, then plastic surgeons placed once-shared tissue and skin over their chests and abdomens.        

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