See these rare triplets today—two of them conjoined—that were given up for adoption 19 years ago.

Even though triplets are unique in and of themselves, most people believe that having a conjoined twin in a triplet is unimaginable—science reports that this type of birth occurs only once in every 200,000 live births!—so when a couple, who were drug addicts and neglected to schedule prenatal appointments, found out they were expecting a triplet, they were at a loss for what to do!

Darla and Jeff Garrison, who have always been foster parents to children with fragile medical conditions, stepped in to help out. Although the placement was temporary, they always wanted girls who would stay with them for a much longer period of time. The couple decided to put the babies up for adoption in order to give them a better chance of survival in life.

Their wish was fulfilled twenty years ago when they welcomed a unique set of triplets who were girls — and two of them are conjoined — to their family. The triplets were born in December 2002, despite the fact that they already had three biological children of their own, Tyler, Matt, and Luke.

The conjoined twins, Macey and Mackenzie, were born attached at the pelvis with entwined intestines; they each had a leg, but they had to share a third non-functional limb. The twins were first adopted by the family when Madeline was four days old, and then at four weeks old. On September 10, 2003, Macey and Mackenzie underwent a 24-hour multi-staged separation surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, performed by pediatric surgeon James Stein.

Darla remembers that the girls would often comfort and calm each other before to this, as their skin was readied by stretching them out so it would easily be stitched and flapped over their wounds. It was a delicate and intricate surgery but it had to be done.

Thanks to a successful surgery, Mackenzie was the first to leave the hospital after six weeks, and Macey was released a month later. After settling in, Darla and Jeff began the adoption process, and two years later, much to the joy of their brothers, the Garrisons were finally granted the legal right to adopt the three. They then moved to a farm in Indianola, Iowa, because Darla and Jeff wanted the kids to have a childhood in the country they would never forget.

Despite having nearly identical body parts and genetic makeup, Macy and Mackenzie have quite different personalities. Macy is described as being “softer around the edges” and prefers to stay at home, while Mackenzie is more outgoing and enjoys being outside. Dr. Stein said, “The girls have succeeded through hard work and the commitment by their family. Their progression is wonderful and inspiring.”

As they grew older, they overcame various obstacles such as needing to rely on their prosthesis and crutches for mobility, but most importantly, they had supportive family members and an ostomy bag that they had to change regularly. Despite these challenges, they were still able to have a typical childhood complete with household chores!

The triplets’ foster mother, Linda Kontis, co-founded the foster-care agency where they were raised. She suggested that the triplets’ current success may be attributed to the fact that when disabled children grow up in a normal environment and see themselves as such, they will also perceive themselves as such.

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