The mother of conjoined twin girls who were separated by surgery when they were 2 years old says her wish for her daughters in the new year is "just for them to be happy."
Pat Hansen also expects 11-year-olds Lisa and Elisa Hansen soon to receive surgery to improve their skulls, for which they've been waiting since they were separated nine years ago. Successful skull surgery would allow them to live more normally, without undue fear of bumping their heads or falling.She said she and her husband are especially thankful the girls are alive because they were given only a small chance of surviving the separation procedures.
Lisa and Elisa were born at McKay-Dee Hospital on Oct. 18, 1977, connected at the tops of their heads, a one-in-70,000 birth occurrence. They had separate brains, but shared a skull.
When the girls were 19 months old, on May 30, 1979, doctors at the University Hospital tied off shared blood vessels, grafted skin and performed unusual medical procedures to give the girls a chance to live separate lives. The separation surgery took 161/2 hours.
Recently Pat Hansen and her husband, David, talked about the past and future of their oldest daughters.
Lisa, who has limited physical ability and some mental impairment, must use a wheelchair and attends special-education classes at Farmington Elementary. She is small for her age. Sitting on the couch next to her father, the small blond girl smiled warmly and said "Hi."
Elisa has limited physical ability on one side but can walk and run and play with other children. She attends special-education classes at Cook Elementary. She wears a specially made bonnet, something Lisa is unable to wear because it rubbed against her wheelchair and was always falling off.
"Elisa is way behind kids her own age. She struggles with time and money," her mother said. But she is learning, takes singing lessons and may someday lead a fairly normal life, Pat Hansen said.
The twins are expected to undergo further skull surgery by early next spring.
"I'm really anxious for them to get their skulls (completely) in," she said. "Elisa always says she wants hair like Shay's (the girls' 9-year-old sister)."
The Hansens have three other children - Shaylyn, 9; Joshua, 4; and Nicole, 2.
Most of all for the twins, Pat Hansen said, "I just want them to be happy. . . . That's all, just for them to be happy."
The Hansens were married in January 1977, a couple of years after graduating from Ogden High School. They never expected twins. Pat Hansen was planning to have an ultrasound when she was seven months along, but the girls were born before that.
Both parents agreed the girls' births drastically changed their lives.
The hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses were borne by Medicaid until Dave Hansen was hired about four years ago as a police officer for Riverdale City. The city's insurance covers health care costs for employees and their families.
The insurance carrier was not happy when notified that the Hansens were clients.
"We ruined their day when we called them up and said we were on their insurance," Dave Hansen said.
The experience of having conjoined twins was an emotional and mental strain for the couple.
"We've met a lot of people who it either makes or breaks," Pat Hansen said. In the Hansens' case, "It made us a lot closer."
The couple and their unusual twins were the focus of a lot of news media attention for several years. They appeared on TV talk shows and were featured in magazines and even checkstand tabloids, but when the girls were about 5, attention tapered off, Mrs. Hansen said.
"Dave is the one who decided to go public. I'd just barely turned 20. . . . I had a hard time with it. But people were really caring and concerned."