'We're Going to . . . Just Enjoy Our Family'
Amid Embraces and Snapshots, Va. Parents Head Home With Twins
By Tamara Jones
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 3, 2004; Page B01
With nurses vying for last-minute hugs and proud doctors snapping keepsake photos, 4 1/2-month-old Jade and Erin Buckles went home to Woodbridge yesterday, just 13 days after surgeons at Children's Hospital separated the conjoined twins.
"The whole experience is so surreal because everything happened so quickly," said Melissa Buckles, a 30-year-old high school teacher. "We never imagined we'd be taking them home so soon."
As preparations were made for discharge from the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Erin snuggled in her mother's arms while Jade pressed her cheek against her father, Kevin Buckles, 35, a Marine gunnery sergeant.
Nurses gathered up the babies' favorite plush yellow ducklings and other belongings while cardiologist Craig Sable and plastic surgeon Michael Boyajian offered final instructions before shyly asking the Buckleses to pose for some farewell pictures.
"Sure!" Melissa agreed, as the twins tracked the commotion around them with dark almond-shaped eyes.
Conjoined from navel to breastbone, the girls spent their lives before the surgery unable to turn their heads much or see the world with anything but a sidelong glance.
"Now they're so smiley," their mother observed.
For the past week, the girls were well enough to share a crib. "They seem a lot happier and calmer in the same bed," Melissa said. Before that, while recovering in separate isolettes, each girl sometimes slept with a soft cloth bearing her sister's scent -- a technique used to comfort a sick twin separated from a sibling.
Dangling over their shared crib was a mobile identical to one waiting for them at home.
"It plays Mozart, Bach and Beethoven," noted Jessica Carmen, a bedside nurse assigned to the girls. "They have a preference for Bach."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Kevin Buckles, holding Erin, and Melissa Buckles, with Jade, say goodbye to Children's Hospital staff as they head home with the twins.
(Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)