May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Dr. Robert Marion Speaks at SAR HS

SAR HS ninth grade students were addressed by Dr. Robert Marion, chief pediatrician of the conjoined Aguirre twins, Carl and Clarence, who were separated in a landmark operation done at Montefiore Hospital fourteen years ago.

The students were spellbound as Dr. Marion described the story of Chang and Eng Bunker after whom the term “Siamese twins” was coined. Dr. Marion then went on to explain the particular challenge of separating the Aguirre twins, born in the Philippines and brought to the U.S. by Montefiore Hospital whose doctors agreed to undertake the separation of the boys who were joined head to head. Originally, the Aguirre boys were thought to have been joined at the skull alone, but about 10 hours into the operation it was discovered that the boys’ brains were actually fused in a two-inch square section. Students were amazed to hear a quote from the surgeon, Dr. Goodrich, explaining that although the twins were able to speak only a few words at the time of the operation, the fact that their brains were fused suggested that they had been communicating silently to each other through this connection in their brains.

Dr. Marion described the carefully planned series of surgeries to complete the separation without brain damage to either boy, the physiological problems that existed due to a shared blood supply and their low combined weight of 25 pounds when they arrived.

The students were fascinated and full of questions: “If the twins are identical genetically, how do you explain their differences in personality?” Dr. Marion answered that perhaps it was due to the differences in blood pressures each experienced when they were attached. “How did the neurosurgeons know what to do when they discovered that the boys’ brains were connected, if they did not anticipate that was the case?” Dr. Marion explained that doctors often have to deal with unexpected events in surgery and have to use their best skill to deal with the situations on the spot.

SAR is most grateful to Dr. Marion for his wonderful presentation.

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