CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) -- Adeline and Knatalye Mata of Lubbock, Texas, came into the world in 2014 as conjoined twins, connected from the chest to the pelvis and sharing some of the same vital organs.
Doctors told their mother that surgery to separate the twins was possible but it would be risky. "I was afraid in the separation, we would lose one or both of them; that was, like, my biggest fear,” said Elysse Mata.
Once the family gave the green light, the separation surgery was a complex 26-hour operation, supervised by Dr. Darrell Cass, a leading surgeon in Texas, who would later be recruited by the Cleveland Clinic to become the clinic's director of fetal surgery.
"It involved working on their chest, their diaphragm, their liver, separating their kidneys, their pelvic organs and then putting them back together," said Dr. Cass.
The successful surgery answered the prayers of the Mata family and was the crowning achievement of Dr. Cass' career, especially when his vision of the girls being able to live separately and flourish became a reality.
Elysse Mata told FOX 8, "We were just amazed that they were there and they were able to do it, that God helped us and made it possible."
Dr. Cass added, “I basically broke down crying; it was just incredibly dramatic, restoring lives."
Four years after the Mata twins were separated, Adeline, known as Addie, is starting to outgrow some of the surgical reconstruction that was necessary during the separation surgery, and she has been having painful complications.
Addie's mother reached out to Dr. Cass and asked if he would be able to arrange to bring the five-year-old to Cleveland and perform follow-up surgeries to open her chest and repair her sternum and rebuild her abdominal wall.
"I don't trust a lot of people with my girls and so when he said, 'yeah, we'll do it,' I was like, 'thank God.'"
Dr. Cass and his team at the clinic completed the surgeries, and four years after separating Addie from her sister, the doctor made sure the twins will spend Thanksgiving together.
"Once again, I'm beyond grateful; I mean, the timing was perfect, you know? He did what he needed to do to fix her," said Elysse Mata.