Siamese twin sisters here celebrated their first birthday Wednesday as their parents tearfully await a highly complex and dangerous separation surgery early next year to save their young lives.
Playful and smiling, Marie Luiza and Marie Luana are connected at the abdomen and hip, have three legs between them, and share the same liver, intestines, bladder, anus and vagina.
Their surgeon Zacharias Calil, set to head a team of 25 physicians for a 14-hour operation in March, warned the girls' parents the chance of both children surviving was around 50 percent.
"Their anatomy is very complex and there can always be surprises during the procedure," Calil, whose team has a conducted numerous Siamese separation surgeries in Brazil, told AFP.
"The risk of death (for one or both) is very high," he cautioned.
The post-operation phase is perhaps even more delicate for patients due to the high risk of infections, Calil added.
There is, however, "a greater risk (for the girls) if they stay as they are," said the twins' 22-year-old mother Larissa Nunes, speaking through tears alongside her husband Thiago Andrade, 24, in their small Recife apartment, on Brazil's northeast coast.
"Whenever I feel bad (because of their condition)," Nunes added, "I look at them and my energy returns."
Luiza and Luana's condition was detected five months into the pregnancy, but their mother was at first confident the problem would be swiftly resolved.
Awaiting the right time for surgery, however, the girls have not yet encountered any health problems in their young lives, Andrade said.
Cost for the operation has been estimated at around one million reals (590,000 dollars), and will be covered by the central state of Goias, where the operation will take place at the main children's hospital.
Number of Siamese twins born in Brazil has been on the rise, with around one case per 100,000 newborns.
Calil said he considers the increase to be due to "environmental changes" in the country and the "indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals in farming."