These Twins Had Different Faces Unt...

These Twins Had Different Faces Until A Groundbreaking Surgery

featured-imageIn 1997, expectant mother Ramona Cooper was faced with the most difficult decision.

She already knew that she was expecting twins, but an ultrasound revealed an unexpected birth defect. One of her twin boys would be born with Pierre Robin syndrome, a facial disfigurement that affects an estimated 1 in 10,000 children.

Ramona brought her pregnancy to term and raised her sons, Gabriel and Haidin—it wasn’t easy, but the family stayed strong. Now, at 19 years old, Gabriel is living out a new chapter of his life.

Read on to learn more about the Cooper family and the outcome of Gabriel’s plastic surgery.

 

14. The Most Difficult Decision

001-14-the-most-difficult-decision-ce1e8a1bda3192db9ecc87dde26bdc6eThrough an ultrasound, doctors discovered that one of Ramona’s twin boys had Pierre Robin syndrome, giving him an underdeveloped jaw. Ramona was given the option to terminate Gabriel.

“I had to think for two months about keeping him,” she said. Significant medical problems affect babies born with this syndrome, including major difficulties in breathing and feeding.

13. Bundles Of Joy

002-13-bundles-of-joy-9967401fa217e7179f36fa35e08d116f“It wasn’t that I had a problem with him being disabled,” Ramona said. “I feared that one twin would grow to despise the other.”

Children with PRS usually reach full development and size. Their prognosis is quite good once breathing and feeding issues are overcome in infancy.

Ramona carried her pregnancy to term, and in March 1997, her boys were born.

12. A New Name

003-12-a-new-name-db150bba7acf68252dadaede01f77ce8“When he was born, all I could see was his hair,” she said. “I couldn’t see what the problem was, but then it became obvious that he didn’t really have a jawline.”

After learning of his condition, Ramona changed his name from Madison to Gabriel.

“As a woman of faith, I wanted him to have a guardian angel, so I named him after Gabriel,” she said.

11. Newborns

004-11-newborns-f615415cf7999f4a4005e44a9ff07b8e“I really didn’t know how people would respond to him or how the boys would be together,” Ramona said.

“The boys have had their problems, but I’ve never regretted keeping Gabriel—he is a wonderful son,” she added. The teenage years were tough for the boys, but most parents watch their children go through the same growing pains.

10. Growing Pains

005-10-growing-pains-5b398c085f01503b02a653a94cfc1011The family went through counseling during the boys’ teenage years. Haidin explained that he blamed himself for Gabriel’s condition. He feared that he had kicked his brother in the jaw while they were in the womb, but that’s simply not true. “I felt pretty good when I realized I had nothing to do with Gabriel’s appearance,” Haidin said. “I’m not sure why I felt responsible, but I just did—it was good when we established that wasn’t the case.”

9. Friendly Competition

006-9-friendly-competition-8c15b1d03211761b1750527017a420b5“Gabriel and I are close, but we have had difficulties at times,” Haidin said.

While Gabriel did feel resentment towards his brother, he explains that he found a healthy outlet for those feelings.

“I resented him for a time, but then I turned that useless anger into something more useful,” Gabriel explains. Friendly competition helped Gabriel overcome those feelings. “I wanted to beat him at things, I thought that was cool.”

8. A Groundbreaking Procedure

007-8-a-groundbreaking-procedure-a4a6c2a41d52503b88b79f47a17fe01cAfter 19 years of looking different from his identical twin brother, Gabriel underwent a plastic surgery procedure that made changes to his jawline.

The family traveled from their home in Alabama to New York in May 2016. The Little Baby Face Foundation performed the jaw-expanding surgery and dramatically altered Gabriel’s appearance.

7. Outstanding Results

008-7-outstanding-results-2a7468ec6f057c66617003a3be07c89fDoctors made incisions in Gabriel’s jaw bone and attached a metal expanding device. The device was closed by one millimeter per day for 30 days.

This procedure opened up his lower jaw and extended it forward to bring it in line with his upper jaw.

“But this is more of a treatment period than a simple surgery—Gabriel’s jaw will now have to heal much like any broken bone,” said one of Gabriel’s doctors.

6. Recovery

009-6-recovery-b0361e85d60eba9eff523e8dd78ecf2d“I’m already a very happy person,” Gabriel said, “but I guess it will help to make me more outgoing.”

His mother has noticed the changes as well.

“He just seems more outgoing and is having conversations with people where he would normally just say hi and walk away,” she said.

5. A New Chapter

010-5-a-new-chapter-46595d174c22033f15916bcbe684560d“Seeing myself in the mirror feels strange,” Gabriel explained. “It makes everything real, but it’s hard for me to believe that I am now this way.”

“He has also lost a lot of his mannerisms,” his mother added. “He doesn’t look uncomfortable when he is in public and is embracing the change really well.”

4. Changed But Still The Same

011-4-changed-but-still-the-same-84da7deaa7cd5b1eead30101cea19094The boys’ mother has always been proud of both of her sons.

“Yes, they’re identical, physically that’s true, chromosomally that’s true,” Ramona said in an interview. “But I somehow feel like I would have lost my son if they looked the same. Gabriel has always been the same person, he just looked different.”

3. Brothers At Heart

012-3-brothers-at-heart-a204f4fb9b3b092206f6cf87cd3c616e“I’m obviously different from Haidin, but I would just say I’m unique because of this condition,” Gabriel said.

“I think I realized I was different when we were around 12,” he added. “It’s not just that I look different—I have to go to the doctors a lot and he doesn’t have to.”

2. Profound Impact

013-2-profound-impact-d4bde9b8e59398f7ddf285cf7eb8a9e5“I always thought I was happy as I was but this has already had a huge impact on my life,” Gabriel said.

“It’s also great being in New York City, the people here are so open minded, nobody stares at me—when I was in Soho, one guy thought that I just had some really cool piercings.”

1. How To Help

014-1-how-to-help-b0de409e3a39faa2dffa72868a8af8a8Pierre Robin syndrome is named after the French physician who first reported the combined abnormalities in 1923. The direct cause is unknown, but it’s likely due to mutations in DNA during development.

The Little Baby Face Foundation helped Gabriel receive his surgery. They accept donations online that help them grant world-class reconstructive surgery to children in need.

The Cooper family and their doctors are very happy with the results of the surgery.

“I didn’t know how this was going to work,” Ramona said. “But I do actually see Hadin and Gabriel looking more alike.”

Still, Gabriel and Haidin remain uniquely different. “We are still twins on the inside,” Gabriel says.

You can learn more about the Cooper family in a Barcroft TV documentary on YouTube. Their struggles are shared by many families around the globe, and you can also donate to The Little Baby Face Foundation to help provide children with these life-changing surgical procedures.

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