Formerly conjoined twins beat the odds, graduating at top of their class

HOUSTON -- This is the final summer at home before Caitlin and Emily Copeland go off to college. But for them the journey is different than most.

A NEW ADVENTURE

The girls tell us they are each other's best friend.

"Super, super close," says Caitlin.

"I think we're pretty close," chimes in Emily before Caitlin adds, "People always ask us, 'do you have powers, like special powers and stuff?' Not really but we can kind of just tell when the other one is upset before we even ask them."

They're twins. That much is obvious. And going to different colleges in the fall will be tough. One goes to the University of Houston, the other Concordia in Austin.

"I don't think they realize how much they rely each on each other," says their mother Crystal. "I see it, but they don't have anything to compare to it. So I think it's going to be harder than they are anticipating."

MORE THAN TWINS


But Emily and Caitlin are more than twins, they were born conjoined, connected at the liver.

Their parents remember learning the news at 17 weeks.

"Of course our minds went completely blank the minute she said conjoined twins," says their mother.

THE ODDS WERE NOT GOOD

The family obstetrician Paul Cook told them 18 years ago that 50 percent of conjoined twins end up as still births. And among those who are born, there's only a 25 percent survival rate. So there was going to be a rough track the rest of the way.

But they beat those odds. An expert team assembled to separate them at 10 months old. Dr. Kevin Lally at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital was the lead surgeon and told us that more than 100 people were involved in their care.

"I just really want to emphasize that it was immense team effort," Lally says. "You just never forget these things and there were just a whole bunch of people involved in their care."

THEY'RE THRIVING

The girls not only survived, they thrived. They played sports, they went to their prom, and just recently graduated as co-valedictorians from their high school.

They're going public with their story now to give hope to other families while hardly believing the journey they've taken so far.

"It's defined us both," says their father John Copeland. "It's strengthened our bond and our faith and each other and I don't think I would change a thing."
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