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Extraordinary Twins

  • Episode:

    1 of 2

  • Transmission (TX):

    Wed 30 Jun 2021

  • TX Confirmed

    Yes

  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.00pm

  • Week:

    Week 26 2021 : Sat 26 Jun - Fri 02 Jul

  • Channel:

    ITV

  • Published:

    Tue 22 Jun 2021

The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 22 June 2021

Extraordinary Twins

Series overview

"You get excited if you're pregnant. You go to the doctor's appointment and they say you have two babies that are conjoined… I was prepared to bury my children the day that they were born. And then they don't die. I guess it was kind of a shock seeing them together - but I fell in love when I first saw them." - Chelsea Torres, mum to conjoined twins Callie and Carter

This new two-part documentary for ITV explores the amazing world of conjoined twins, discovering how families cope with the extraordinary circumstance of being parents to the rarest of babies - one out of every 200,000 live births.

Narrated by Sheridan Smith, this documentary features three-year-old twins Callie and Carter from Idaho, who are fused from the chest down with two legs between them, and whose parents Nick and Chelsea Torres only have a few months left to decide whether to opt for separation. 

They meet still-conjoined and now separated twins on their quest to make the best decision for their children. Cameras follow the work of leading British doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital as they try to separate conjoined twins over four nail-biting operations. 

And the programme explores the extraordinary lives of the twins still joined together around the world, including Krista and Tatiana who share so much of their brains they can see out of each other’s eyes.

With parents facing impossible decisions over whether t go for separation surgery, this documentary goes up close with the twins to discover what their unique relationships are like with their siblings - and how the dynamic works once they are no longer conjoined.

Episode 1

In the first episode, Nick and Chelsea face an impossible decision – to keep Callie and Carter joined at the sternum together – or to separate them by putting them through complex surgery with the risk of losing one or both girls. Surgery will mean sharing out vital organs as well as having one leg each.

Callie and Carter know they are different but at the moment are healthy and happy. Their parents worry about the future – worrying about how they are going to get jobs, or have relationships as well as the more immediate risks of surgery.

Chelsea says: "We're like, 'How are Callie and Carter going to get a job? What are they going to be able to do? The dating aspect – if some boy, two boys are going to want to be in that relationship?' One of them dying or both of them dying is my biggest fear."

Ideally twins are separated below the age of two but conjoined twins have been separated at four years old. As Callie and Carter approach this birthday, time is running out for Nick and Chelsea to decide which way to turn.

To help them make their decision, the family head on an emotional journey to meet other conjoined twins and their parents. Conjoined twins are very rare – it is thought there are only 12 sets of adult conjoined twins living around the world. One of these sets is 20 year olds Carmen and Lupita, who couldn’t be separated. Through talking to them, Nick and Chelsea find out the positive and negative sides of a life joined together. Discovering that they are studying at vet college and that Carmen can drive is a boost, but finding out that they have ongoing health issues is of concern. Carmen says: "We’ve had adults literally ask us, 'Oh my god - are you guys aliens? Are you sick in the head or something? I don’t know what’s wrong with you but okay.' Yeah, we’re different. We’re not like one person with two heads."

Chelsea also has a fear that if they don’t separate their twins, when they are older Callie and Carter may come to resent them. The family travels to California to meet Art and Aida who faced the same dilemma but opted for separation despite the risks in a bid to give their twins – now six - a more independent life.

Talking about separation, Aida says: "All I knew is that I wanted to give both of them that chance to have an individual life. I carried Erica over to Eva's bed. When they saw each other some nurses actually heard the heart rate machine just go up. That moment, it was like, 'This is it, we did it.' It was very emotional to see two little girls when they went in as one. It was like giving birth again."

Seeing how well Eva and Erika are coping with a prosthetic leg each and the blossoming of their separate personalities gives Nick and Chelsea a taste of what life could be like for their daughters. But they are still undecided and want to meet more twins before making their final decision.

Fatma and Omer from Turkey have 17 month old twins, called Yigit and Derman, who are joined at the head - known as craniopagus twins. With the help of a charity Gemini Untwined – set up by their surgeons - to pay for the million pound treatment, they’ve brought Yigit and Derman to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London – one of the very few hospitals in the world with the skill to separate them.

Over the last 15 years they have successfully separated three sets of craniopagus twins. These are the rarest type of conjoined twins – only five percent are linked in this way. Craniofacial surgeon Professor David Dunaway and Paediatric Neurosurgeon Mr Owase Jeelani and their large team will need four complex and risky operations to complete the separation which will be spread over a period of nearly two months.

Mr Jeelani says: "I think it must be a near impossible decision for a parent, whether to undergo surgery with the risk of losing one or both children or having one or both children damaged because of the surgical process."

After one simpler operation, once Fatma and Omer hand over their twins to start the complicated surgery where the boys' shared blood vessels and brain interface must be separated, there will be no turning back.

This is a Blink Films production for ITV