“I can’t keep these babies,” cried the new mom the moment she saw her kids after delivery. She had beautiful triplets with one peculiarity – while one was separate, the other two were conjoined. “They are not normal; I don’t want my kids to be a subject of amusement for others!” repeated the women, shaking nervously.
“Ma’am, there are several procedures to help separate them and the ratio is very successful.” said the nurse. “Who will pay for the surgery, you?” asked the mom. No matter what everyone said, she just wouldn’t listen. Soon enough, she put her kids up for adoption, not knowing if they will be ever taken care of. However, 17 years later everyone would realize that the woman made a terrible mistake…
Madeline, Mackenzie, and Macey were born in 2002 in California with a rare phenomenon that occurs once in 200,000 cases. Mackenzie and Macey were conjoined twins while Madeline was normal.
The triplets’ parents suffered from drug addiction and immediately after their birth, they were abandoned by their parents. Consequently, the girls were placed in foster care, but the big question was, will somebody adopt them?
The administration at the foster care assumed the girls are doomed to live a life full of torment but their assumptions were proved to be wrong when Jeff and Darla Garrison showed up. The moment Jeff and Darla saw the triplets, they fell in love with them.
Believe it or not, the couple already had three biological sons but still, they decided to adopt the girls. Would the three boys also welcome the three girls as enthusiastically as their parents?
Despite knowing all the difficulties they would have to encounter, Jeff and Darla officially adopted the girls and took them home to Riverside, California. Contrary to the fear, the boys were also delighted to see the girls and promised to help their parents every step of the way with the girls.
The couple had been foster parents to 10 other children in the past but the conjoined twins were going to be an extremely difficult challenge. Were the couple well equipped to face the challenge?
After the couple took them home, the girls spent a great time surrounded by love and laughter. Everyone in the family adored them and even extended family dropped by frequently to meet them and spend time with them.
Back of the mind Jeff and Darla kept struggling with the thought that the conjoined twins do deserve a fair chance at life. Therefore, in September 2003 when the girls were 9 months old, the couple made a very big decision.
The couple decided to separate Mackenzie and Macey surgically and what followed next was a complicated 24-hour grueling surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The surgery required numerous specialists and support staff with intense planning.
Jeff and Darla remember the constant shuttling back and forth to the hospital from their home along with a lot of paperwork, but they were not very worried because they had immense trust in the medical team. Was the hospital successful in upholding it?
By God’s grace and the hard work put in by the medical team at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the surgery was successful. The surgeons amputated the third leg, gave each girl one leg, divided the girls’ fused liver, and gave the large intestine to Mackenzie.
Additionally, they also had to rebuild the girls’ pelvises. Could Mackenzie and Macey live a normal life now like other kids their age?
The credit goes to all the excellent surgeons and people involved in post-op who took great care of the girls. All the subspecialties involved – general pediatrics, plastics, neurology, orthopedics planned each step minutely because of which the girls can now do what they want with their lives.
The recovery time was long and painful, but the girls remained strong and playful. Mackenzie was taken home after six weeks, but Macey had to stay back for another month.
It was not just the Garrison family who was happy to finally have the twins back home after the surgery but the whole neighborhood. Friends and family organized a huge homecoming party for the girls to bless them with a happy future.
However, there were still some milestones the girls had to cover because they were given a prosthetic leg and they had to work with a physical therapist to learn to walk. Would the girls be successful in covering these milestones and live ordinary teenage life in the future?
Years passed and girls continued to live the most ordinary teenage life. They did all the same things as their brother. They went to school, made friends, played around, went on hikes, and spent time with their parents.
Not once in their lives till now have the girls felt that Darla and Jeff and not their real parents. All eight members of the family are extremely close to each other.
The three biological sons of Garrisons, Tyler, Matt, and Luke are the best brothers the triplets could ever wish for. All three of them are extremely protective of their sisters and make sure they have everything they wish for.
Even when the girls were small and struggling with recovery after the surgery, the boys were very patient. Darla is an interview stated, it is the boys who have sacrificed because they had to deal with our divided attention.
Even though Macey and Mackenzie were conjoined twins, the girls have very different temperaments now. Macey is a calm girl who likes to stay at home whereas Mackenzie is very outgoing and prefers spending all of her time outdoors.
However, both the girls are very independent and even when they were young they could take care of themselves efficiently. It was seeing the same 7-year-old self-sufficient girls that Jeff and Darla made another brave decision.
To let all their children enjoy a more outdoorsy life, the family moved to a farm in Iowa where they were surrounded by animals. The family had 10 horses, two dogs, and four cats.
The children divided the chores amongst themselves and took care of the animals passionately. All the three girls learnt how to ride horses, and now they also help teach their brothers.
Their days are packed with homework, college preparation, and extracurricular activities, and a part-time job. Madeline participates in the church choir and runs track.
Future Farmers of America has helped Mackenzie find her calling. And Macey spends every free moment she can at the Dairy Queen counter with her best pal.
Overall, it’s a life that many American kids would instantly know and understand—until strangers approach them in public and bombard them with questions, they’ve had to answer their entire lives.
“I don’t want to be known as the girl who was conjoined to her sister,” Macey expressed her displeasure at an interview. Both Macey and Mackenzie wanted to be like regular kids, but would the world let them be normal kids?
In the past, when Jeff and Darla decided to adopt the triplets, many people advised the couple not to go forward with the adoption. They said it would be almost impossible to raise special needs children and that the girls would be forever dependent on them.
Similarly, there were many people around the girls who demotivated them from doing what they wanted and made them feel less of themselves. Fortunately, the girls were also strong headed as their parents and did not let these things affect them negatively in life.
Although Macey and Mackenzie lead normal lives, they face some lingering issues now and then. Mackenzie recently had to undergo another surgery for treating her worsening scoliosis.
It was a difficult period for everyone in the family, but they made sure they supported Mackenzie as and when needed. Read on to know another interesting step Mackenzie took to keep things fun for her.
Mackenzie and Macey got a lot of weird glances when they were in public. It made them very conscious, and they preferred people to come and ask questions directly rather than staring. The same happened with Mackenzie when she spent time in the hospital recovering after her scoliosis surgery.
When she took her daily walks in the hospital corridor and people started, Mackenzie stopped, cleared their doubts before they asked, and this way made a lot of wonderful friends.
Mackenzie and Macey did a lot of physical therapy to learn to walk through prosthetic legs. They wore prosthetic legs regularly when they were young, but they shed the leg as they grew older.
The prosthetic legs put a lot of weight on the hipbone which was not desirable because the girls had reconstructed pelvises. Did this mean the girls could not move around easily now?
It is rightly said, when there is a will there’s a way. The girls then started using mobile devices, they were a little bulkier as they weighed around 25 pounds, but it allowed them to move around freely.
As the girls grew older, they also adapted themselves to walk on one leg. It was a little difficult initially but with strength and determination, the girls taught themselves to do it effectively.
The girls graduate from school in 2021 and all of them want to go to college. The Garrison couple has 6 kids in total; hence, they can’t give college fees for all of them.
As a result, the girls are focusing on getting academic scholarships to help them go to college. Jeff and Darla get immensely happy when they see their girls working hard to achieve something in life.
The story of the girls is so inspiring that they were called on National Television for an interview. The whole family went to a 60 minutes talk show where they told their story.
The family came forward and told all their viewers that they had both bittersweet moments, but they continued to support each other. Guess how else the talk show helped other than making the girls popular?
The inspirational talk show inspired dozens of families to follow suit and help special needs children. Our world needs more people like Garrison’s who are ready to forward a much needed helping hand to give special needs children a second chance at life.
Jeff and Darla’s well-rounded parenting gave the girls a great childhood and made them capable of building for themselves a promising future.
Mackenzie is still undecided about which curriculum she would pursue, but she is interested in agriculture and plant anatomy. Macey, on the other hand, aspires to teach kindergarten. Madeline aspires to be a nurse, and then a nurse practitioner.
Her research will focus on senior people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The girls feel optimistic about the future today. Instead of focusing on what they can’t accomplish, they focus on achieving goals that many thought they’d never be able to achieve.
They’re more appreciative than ever for their health and well-being as they prepare for college and adulthood. They’re thriving in the home of the family who adopted them so many years ago.
Special needs children are, first and foremost, children. Any choice to adopt a child necessitates investigation and knowledge. Do not be afraid to adopt a special need and let them bring a positive change in your life.
They won’t necessarily be dependent on you but with the right support and strength, they can pave a great future for themselves.