Multiple Births

Delicate Surgery Saves Twins in their Mom’s Womb

Five months pregnant, Aimee Donley found out that the twins inside her womb had a rare condition where one baby was receiving all the share of blood. Doctors assured her that a new surgery could save at least one of the brothers. Luckily, both the babies were saved and are now five months old.

Fort Worth Twins TTS 2

Aimee, who lives in Fort Worth found out that her babies suffered from a condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). Both the babies were sharing the same placenta and while one was getting dangerously overloaded with blood and food, the other was starved. The condition occurs in about 15 percent of identical twins.

Aimee thought then that she would be losing her babies. But a new surgery that is still not widely performed in many hospitals gave her a ray of hope.

“We felt like there was a decent chance to save one, if not both of them,” Donley said.  “And that’s why we decided to go ahead with the surgery.”

Two days later, Aimee was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston for an in-utero operation.

The operation involved forming two placentas for the two babies instead of one so that both had sufficient blood sources without deprivation or overload.

Explained Dr. Anthony Johnson, a fetal interventionist at the hospital, “What we do — for all intents and purposes — is create two placentas. We separate them. Now the one twin which we call the ‘stuck’ twin or the ‘donor’ now has its own placenta and has to sustain itself. The ‘recipient twin’ — who has been in heart failure — now can resolve the heart failure, because he no longer has the volume coming from the donor.”

Fort Worth Twins TTS Thankfully the babies survived the operation although they were born prematurely at 27 weeks just three weeks after the surgery.

The twins named Luke and Jacob were just 2 pounds and 3 ounces each at birth. They joined their older brother Gavin who is 18 months old.

The Donleys consider themselves very lucky as both the baby boys were saved.

“We’re very much blessed,” Aimee Donley said.

In December last year UT Southwestern in Dallas also performed a similar procedure where twin girls survived the operation but such cases are still not common. The Donley twins are therefore extremely lucky indeed.

Related Articles:


About the author


Atula is a writer, traveler, and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites, and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called


  • Comments on this story, especially for parents who may be researching surgery to combat TTTS:

    This is NOT A NEW SURGERY at all! This procedure was pioneered by Dr. Julian DeLia, and the first laser surgery to separate twins sharing a blood flow through the placenta was in 1988. I was fortunate enough to be treated at 20 weeks pregnant by Dr. DeLia, and my daughters are healthy 15 year olds that were born at 36 weeks.

    Reporting this as a new procedure or that it is not “common” to have a good outcome is not only incorrect, it is irresponsible and dangerous when you consider newly diagnosed parents are trying to find help on the internet.

    For correct information, please contact Mary Slaman-Forsythe, the founder of the Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome Foundation. She can point new patients to MANY different treatment centers around the world.

    • Thanks Laurie. Im actually in the waiting room at the hospital. My wife is currently in surgery. 20 weeks old identical sisters have severe ttts. I would like to think that the survival of both twins was not a miracle but a real chance for all parents going through this terrible experience. Lots and lots of bad news on the internet but curiosity got the better of me.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend