SHAWNA AND JANELLE RODERICK, TWINS BORN IN MAY JOINED AT THE LIVER, WERE SEPARATED AT LLUCH
SCOPE, Spring, 1997
Photo: Janelle (left infant) and Shawna are now happy at home, living in Prescott, Arizona, where father, Jeff, is camp ranger at the campground operated by the Arizona Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and mother, Michelle, is a science teacher.
Shawna Leilani and Janelle Kiana Roderick are doing just fine, thank you. The identical twins (formerly conjoined, facing each other, joined at the liver) are trying to talk now&emdash;squealing, jabbering, and saying, "da da."
The girls, daughters of Jeff and Michelle Roderick, were delivered May 1, 1996, by Elmar Sakala, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and separated 30 days later by H. Gibbs Andrews, MD, chief pediatric surgeon at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital, during procedures which were carefully planned and accomplished by teams of perinatologists, neonatologists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses.
"They are definitely mobile," says their father, Jeff, "almost able to walk." They can pull themselves up in their cribs and walk around while holding on to low furniture. The Roderick family lives at Camp Yavapines, an all-year campground in Prescott, Arizona, operated by the Arizona Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Dad is camp ranger.
People in Prescott recognize the family because of all the good publicity generated by the successful separation of the twins by Dr. Andrews and his team of specialists at LLUCH.
Dr. and Mrs. Andrews became the girls' honorary grandparents when they participated in a dedication ceremony for the twins at their local church on October 19, 1996.
The babies have tripled their weight in seven months. Shawna, the first-born, weighs 14.5 pounds, and now has two teeth. Janelle weighs 16 pounds and is working on getting her first tooth.
The girls have different temperaments, according to the Rodericks. Shawna is more assertive, and makes more noise, more often. "She sleeps better," says Jeff, "probably because she wears herself out." Janelle is more passive. "She lets Shawna steal stuff most of the time, but when she objects, she is louder."
Mom&emdash;Michelle Roderick&emdash;is a science teacher. She organized a space camp last summer at Camp Yavapines. Campers learned about microgravity while assembling PVC pipe fittings under water in the swimming pool. They made comets out of dry ice, ate freeze-dried food, and made a lunar biosphere where they could grow plants in a contained atmosphere.
With telescopes, the children were able to see Jupiter at nighttime and watch a solar flare during the day. "We hope to get more sophisticated in the future," declares Michelle. She plans to invite an astronaut to space camp next summer. But most of the time she is caring for Shawna and Janelle.
The girls' maternal grandparents, Will and Diane Degeraty, are teaching the twins to put their hands together while praying. Now when the Degeratys' voices are heard on the speaker phone, Janelle puts her hands together.
The Rodericks are sentimental about the 30 days when their daughters were together. "It was a unique set of circumstances," says Michelle, "but we coped."
It was a tough time for the young married couple, especially while feeding and changing the girls. Sometimes the Rodericks were worried and scared. They were definitely in favor of separating the twins sooner rather than later. When one girl threw a tantrum and turned red the other girl turned white. "We knew we had to separate them," points out Michelle. She remembers thinking, "We've got to hurry up and get this done!"
The human-interest story received extensive regional coverage by the news media in Southern California and Arizona. It was also covered by "Good Morning America," "This Morning," "Today," "Extra," "Day & Date," "American Journal," "America's Talking," and "Leeza." It received international coverage by the BBC and Radio-Television Luxembourg. "Extra" featured the Roderick twins five times; the latest, a follow-up story in December.
An interesting dilemma occurred when the State of California computer would not accept birth certificates stating the girls were born at the same time. One had to be born first. Shawna became the first-born because one of her legs appeared first. And they couldn't weigh the same. The medical staff had to estimate how much each girl weighed by making careful measurements.
The Rodericks are planning on returning to Loma Linda University Children's Hospital to celebrate the girls' first birthday and to share their blessings with the people who made it all possible.