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Fitterer twins to leave Mayo today

By Christina Killion Valdez

The Post-Bulletin

A weekend of bittersweet goodbyes began Friday as Abygail and Madyson Fitterer, the once-conjoined twins from Bismarck, N.D., and their family prepare to leave the care of Mayo Clinic.

The girls have been in Rochester since October when preparations began for the separation surgery, which took place Jan. 3 at Mayo Eugenio Litta Children’s Hospital, inside Saint Marys Hospital. They plan to arrive home in a few days.

Asked to say a few words to the team of medical providers gathered to say goodbye on Friday, the girls’ mother, Suzy Fitterer, smiled and said, "A few words."

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The joke broke the momentary melancholy of the occasion and indicated the bright personalities that touched the hearts of so many medical providers.

"They are a great family to work with," said Dr. Nancy K. Henry, chairwoman of the child and adolescent committee. "They came in open-minded and open-hearted."

Speaking to the group, Henry said, "Goodbyes are usually sad, but this is a great outcome for you. We are happy to see you go home."

Dr. Christopher Moir, the pediatric surgeon who led the separation surgery, agreed.

"It’s been a long road for them," Moir said. He said the surgery was the easiest part of the process.

The family has a positive road ahead, said Moir, who is the father of 11-year-old twin boys.

Moir has been making a habit of this sort of goodbye celebration, having also served as the leader of the medical teams that separated conjoined twin girls from Fargo, N.D., in May and twin boys from Mankato in November.

The Fitterers used the get-together as a chance to show their appreciation for staff members.

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"For the first time in my life I’m speechless," Suzy said. "I can’t begin to thank all of you. I’m so glad we made the choice to come here."

Asked if the girls’ were ready to leave, physician assistant Penny Stavlo said, "Abygail is always a couple steps ahead of us. On Monday she’ll have her little outfit on and her bags packed."

Nonetheless because the process of recovery will continue even after the girls arrive home, the family won’t be able to have visitors for a while.

"We’d love for them to get to know the community, but that will have to come later," Suzy said.

The family will continue to stay in touch with the medical personnel in Rochester, and a return trip is already planned for a checkup in May, said Stacy Fitterer, the girls’ father.

He knew all along though that Friday’s goodbye wouldn’t be the last, he said.

Stacy remembered that at his first meeting with Stavlo, Stavlo said, "I’m in charge until they graduate."

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