EAST ELMHURST, Queens -- Every milestone is that much sweeter for the Camachos, especially when you look at how far they've come as a family.
Little Bellanie and Ballanie were born connected at the hip, and they are now 2 years old. Their parents, Laurilin Marte and Abel Camacho, who are from the Dominican Republic, had no idea until after their birth.
"The doctors said, 'Oh my God, they are conjoined twins,'" Marte said. "But I say, 'God, the babies are in your hands. Whatever you do, I accept.'"
It took 21 hours of surgery and 50 different medical professionals to separate them, and they left the hospital on March 24, 2017, to a chorus of applause from family, friends, doctors and hospital staff.
Now, Bellanie is walking and talking. Ballanie, who was born with more developmental delays, still crawls, but she continues to show signs of progress. She is being watched closely for autism, and both girls still wear colostomy bags.
The family now resides in East Elmhurst, Queens, where the girls remain in rehabilitative therapy.
Camacho says he is grateful for how much progress they've made.
"I hope that whoever sees our story sees that, there IS hope," he said through a translator.
Conjoined twins are extremely rare, only one set per every 200,000 births. The Camachos' connection, however, was even more rare. Only 6 percent of conjoined twins are connected at the lower spine, like they were. And the twins shared a major artery.
Still, the doctors who operated on them say they have learned so much from this particular case.
"(It will help) other children, not necessarily twins, but those with severe trauma, severe kidney disease, severe gastrointestinal disease, and neurological diseases," said Dr. Michael Gewitz, physician-in-chief at the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital.
To their mother, it's more simple. It means prayers are answered.
"It's a blessing," she said. "It's a miracle."
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Conjoined twins who were surgically separated make astounding progress
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