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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Kirk Milhoan

Aired July 28, 2003 - 19:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, another case of conjoined sisters is stirring emotions, newborns Brinley and Victoria Smith were born prematurely on Friday, sharing a heart and a liver that's connected. This weekend, doctors in San Antonio, Texas, made the difficult decision not to risk separating surgery. The decision is almost a relief for the girls' family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBBIE GILSON, CONJOINED TWINS' GRANDMOTHER: Brinley and Victoria have overcome many obstacles to bring them to the -- to bring them this far. And we realize that there are many more to come. Their future is still unknown, but we will accept every moment with them as a gift, and be grateful that we could be part of this miracle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, joining me now with details on why the decision not to operate was made is the twins' pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Kirk Milhoan, who's in San Antonio.

Doctor, thanks very much for being with us.

First, tell us a little bit how you came about this decision. I mean, I guess, how are these two connected?

DR. KIRK A. MILHOAN, PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGIST: Their heart is connected in such a way that they have four collecting chambers and two pumping chambers. In looking at how to give both children a functioning heart, we did come -- we came to the decision that it just couldn't happen.

COOPER: I know you had very intensive discussions with the mother of these twins. I mean, if you can, tell us a little bit about how this discussions went in trying to make this decision.

MILHOAN: Well, initially I saw them when -- before the children were born, when she came down in premature labor. At that point, she didn't -- when she initially came down, she didn't realize she had conjoined twins. She wasn't even sure she had twins.

And when she received the diagnosis of conjoined twins, and it looked like they were joined at the chest, they were concerned exactly what the heart anatomy was. And at that point, that's when I was called into the picture to do the fetal echocardiogram to look at the heart of Brin and Victoria. It was after my -- after scanning with the -- scanning the babies' with obstetricians that I went and talked to the mom. The mom was very distraught. And in our conversations we had, we sort of talked about all the different options that these children would have. And at that time, it didn't look like the heart would be -- there was definitely one heart between the two girls, and it didn't look like it could be separated.

COOPER: I mean, there have been some cases, I know, overseas, where, I mean, not so similar, but where one twin was -- one of the children was considered stronger, and the, you know, quote, unquote, "weaker" child was sacrificed, in a sense, in order to keep the stronger child alive. What, I mean, was that ever a point of discussion?

MILHOAN: We brought that up just in discussion -- the mother and I talked about that. And she was adamant that she didn't want one sacrificed for the other. And both of these kids, at this point, there doesn't look to be one stronger than the other. They both have their own individual problems with their heart.

COOPER: Well, I know they -- it's going to be a long road from here. They're still in the hospital. But we appreciate you coming in, talking about the update. Dr. Kirk Milhoan, thanks very much.

MILHOAN: My pleasure.

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