Chelsea Torres is raising awareness about conjoined twins through her twin daughters, Callie and Carter, six years old and connected from the sternum down.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 4, 2023. It has since been updated.
Chelsea Torres, a 30-year-old pharmacy technician from Blackfoot, Idaho, is raising awareness about conjoined twins through her twin daughters, Callie and Carter. The twins, who are now six years old, are connected from the sternum down and share a liver, intestinal tract, and bladder, but have separate hearts and stomachs. While it was difficult for Torres when the girls were babies, she now shares photos and videos on social media to raise awareness and educate others about life with conjoined twins. “During the summer, we live at the pool,” Torres tells TODAY. “You’ll see us at the mall and at expos. We’re always out doing something.”
Conjoined twins are rare and occur once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Approximately 70% of conjoined twins are female, and most are stillborn or die shortly after delivery. Callie and Carter were born healthy and spent only five weeks in the hospital waiting for a special car seat to arrive.
While some conjoined twins undergo separation surgery, Torres and her husband Nick have no plans for Callie and Carter to do so. “They don’t have any health issues,” Torres says, adding that the 24-hour surgery is “extremely risky.” Doctors recommend performing the surgery before the age of four, as younger children have a better chance of survival and won’t remember the pain. Callie and Carter have never expressed a desire to be separated, and Torres notes that they “don't know any other way of life."
Dr. Steven Stylianos, surgeon-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, says that separation surgeries in cases like the Torres twins generally have good survival rates. While it is a demanding operation, conjoined twins with separate hearts, heads, and brains are typically in good shape. However, conjoined twins can live out a normal lifespan but may face challenges later in life.
For Torres, the most challenging thing about having conjoined twins is having to sew all their clothes. She cuts up two dresses, shirts, or jackets and stitches them together to create outfits for Callie and Carter. The twins have also grown out of their custom car seat, and the next available appointment for a car seat clinic for children with special needs isn't until later in the year.
Despite the challenges, Torres remains positive and focuses on the things that bring her joy. She notes that Callie and Carter have very different personalities, with Callie being “really girly” and Carter preferring to play video games with her nine-year-old brother. When the girls need a break from each other, one will put on headphones and watch TV on a tablet.
“They caress each other's legs. Sometimes when Carter is anxious, she’ll draw a circle on Callie’s leg with her finger and just keep following it,” Torres reveals. The sisters get around in a wheelchair and are learning how to walk and coordinate their movements in physical therapy. They are currently able to take 40 steps.
Through social media, Torres has connected with older conjoined twins who drive, date, and have fulfilling careers. She is hopeful about Callie and Carter's future, as they have each other to rely on. “Yes, they're going to have challenges, but I know they're going to be just fine because they have each other," Torres tells TODAY.