Heart doing well in surviving Siamese twin



PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The misshapen heart that had sustained twins Amy and Angela Lakeberg for their seven weeks together grows stronger daily and bodes well for Angela’s long-term survival, doctors said Tuesday.

Dr. William I. Norwood said it ‘‘could be a matter of weeks’‘ or even days before Angela is disconnected from an artificial ventilator and breathes unassisted.

‘‘There is nothing about this child specifically at the moment that makes us worry something could go ‘klunk’ six months from now,‘’ said Norwood, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. ‘‘There’s no reason to expect that (the heart) wouldn’t continue to grow as does any other heart from infancy.’‘

In an operation last week, doctors severed the tiny heart’s links to Amy Lakeberg, killing her about two-thirds of the way through the 5^4-hour surgery.

Also separated were fused liver tissue and the skin and flesh that had bound the twins since birth.

The heart was reconstructed and sewn into Angela Lakeberg’s chest.

Doctors called the first 72 hours after surgery the most critical, and said Angela passed that Monday with no major problems. Norwood said Angela’s heart was ‘‘working with normal efficiency.’‘

Her malformed heart has six chambers, but doctors said the two underdeveloped ones that were Amy’s are not being used, making the heart function as a regular person’s four-chambered one would.

‘‘This is essentially a normal heart,’‘ said Dr. Paul Weinberg, the hospital’s senior pediatric cardiologist.

He said that because Amy’s connections to the heart were ‘‘rather rudimentary,’‘ surgeons decided she was the one to be sacrificed so Angela could live. Doctors had said both twins could not survive long if left unseparated.

Angela’s liver and kidneys also were reported functioning well Tuesday. Doctors declined to speculate about when she could be released from the hospital.

The twins were born June 29 at Loyola University Medical Center in suburban Chicago. Doctors there advised against separation, but the twins’ parents, Kenneth and Reitha Lakeberg, pursued it nonetheless.

Amy Lakeberg was buried Tuesday in her hometown of Wheatfield, Ind., after a private funeral service.

Norwood and Weinberg said the surgery last week was performed with no further operations in mind.

‘‘At the moment, the chest is set up in such a fashion that in principle nothing else would have to be done,’‘ Norwood said.

Weinberg said Angela’s condition, while encouraging, did not exceed their expectations because hope was high at the outset.

‘‘We went into this with the expectation we would have a good result,’‘ he said. ‘‘That’s what we expected to happen. If the heart does its job, we’re happy, the baby’s happy and everybody’s happy.’‘