ATLANTA -- Conjoined twins Asa and Eli Hamby were born alive at 7:32 a.m. today, weighing 9 pounds, 10 ounces. Both were crying, and their mother, Robin Hamby, was doing fine. At the time, the only complication the nurse reported was the babies needed bag masks to support their breathing.
At around 10:15 a.m., Robin talked on her cellphone with one of the doctors attending to Asa and Eli in the neonatal intensive care unit. The doctor told her, she said, “There is an issue with the right side of the heart. The left side is perfect. The right side has like an extra atrium and an extra ventricle, and there’s two aortas. One of the arteries is like switched, not in the right place because of having extra ones, but he said that their vital signs are stable.”
Asa and Eli will be transferred via ambulance to another hospital in Atlanta, where specialists can do more extensive testing on the heart, Robin said. Before then, the conjoined were going to be brought to Robin’s room so the family and friends could see them.
“They’re stable enough to do that,” Robin said.
After 9 a.m., a nurse told Michael Hamby, the father, that the babies had to be intubated because they need more help breathing. They also were given medication for their joint heart.
“Because they weren’t oxygenating really well,” the nurse said, “they’re a little concerned there might be something going on with the heart.”
Robin and Michael Hamby, both 34 and from Ladonia, Ala., never swayed in their decision to proceed with this pregnancy of conjoined twins in the face of tremendous odds.
Robin said she had worried that the babies would be whisked away as soon as they were delivered by Caesarian section, but she did have a chance to see them after the birth.
“They were so cute, and I was like, ‘Where did they get those chins from?’” she told family members, to laughter. “That was my first thought, and they sounded like little kitty cats crying.”
After hearing the concerns about the twins' heart, one of their grandfathers, David Hamby, shared his thoughts from the waiting room. He was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned “Two souls sharing one heart.”
“Once I saw them crying, I was really hopeful, but this is putting a little fear into me now, that they might not make it,” he said. “I’m still processing that now. I’m processing a lot.”
According to the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, conjoined twins occur once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births and most are stillborn.
Statistics from the University of Maryland Medical Center are also daunting: 35 percent of conjoined twins survive only one day, the overall survival rate is between 5 and 25 percent, and female conjoined twins are three times more likely than males to be born alive.
Even more unusual is how the Hamby boys are connected, side by side, a category among the least common types of conjoined twins. They have one trunk and one set of arms and legs but two separate heads. The technical term is dicephalic parapagus.
"We've talked about all the possibilities," Robin said in September. "I'm not going to be in denial. God can choose to take any one of us any day at any time, but we're going to have faith that he's given us these babies as a blessing. The chance that they've made it this far is amazing. So we're already beating the odds."
Family members expressed relief when they first heard about the arrival of the twins. “It’s joy, relief,” said Cindy Kirby, Robin’s stepmother.
“Now, I’m waiting to hear that they’re OK with everything else,” said David Hamby, Michael’s father.
Michael Hamby, the proud papa, came into the waiting room with more details.
“They are doing good, color good,” he said. “Breathing on their own. They put a tube in their umbilical cord to put IV fluid in them.”
The twins were undergoing various tests to determine the extent of their health.
“We’re still not out of the woods,” Michael said.
Asked how he is feeling, Michael said, “I’m still scared. They’re doing good, but ”
He didn’t finish the sentence.
“Y’all keep on praying for them,” Michael said as he left the waiting room. “Things still can happen.”
Before the birth, about a dozen family and friends gathered around Robin Hamby as the sun rose over her Atlanta hospital room Thursday morning. The Rev. Tim Harris, pastor of The Verge Church in Columbus, led the gathering in prayer.
“Lord, You say we have not because we ask not,” he said. “So guess what, Lord? We come asking today. We ask You because, ultimately, Your will is going to be done. We say that these babies are going to be fine, these babies are going to be healthy, these babies are going to have very few if any complications. We just declare that by Your stripes.”
After the delivery, family and friends were buoyed when Michael showed them video of the twins he recorded on his cellphone.
“They look like normal babies,” said David Hamby, one of the grandfathers. “You have to take a second to realize there are two heads there.”
The twins’ other grandfather, Robin’s father, Jerry Kirby, sighed and said, “I’m relieved a good bit. Still a million questions, but glad that we’ve got to this point.”
Tim Harris, the pastor, summed up the feeling in the waiting room: “God’s will was done, and I’m certainly glad it lined up with what we were hoping for.”
Click on this story throughout the day for updates.