Conjoined Twins Who Made Headlines for 2002 Separation Surgery Turn 21: Inside Their Lives Now

Siamese Twins Rollout
Yuri Hasegawa Josie Hull (right) and her twin sister Teresa Cajas in July.
Josie Hull and her twin sister Teresa Cajas weren't expected to survive their first birthday. The sisters turned 21 in July.
"They're both challenged in the eyes of the world, but they've touched so many lives," Josie's mom, Jenny Hull, tells PEOPLE in this week's exclusive story. "This birthday is such a big milestone to celebrate."
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Today, the bond between girls is stronger than ever. Josie says of Teresa: “I adore her. She can neither walk nor speak, but I can understand her and she can understand me. We communicate through our eyes.”
Born in July 2001 at the head of a remote Guatemalan village, the girls traveled to Los Angeles in August 2002, where a team of surgeons successfully separated them after a grueling 23-hour procedure that made international headlines separate.
Siamese Twins Rollout
Amy Waddell/UCLA Childrens Hospital/Getty Josie (right) and Teresa in 2002, just months before their split.
"It was very risky," says Dr. Mark Urata, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, who was involved in the procedure. "Back then, the success rates for similar breakups weren't that great."
But the twins soon faced another challenge. After returning to Guatemala, they contracted life-threatening brain infections. Teresa soon required around-the-clock care in Los Angeles as Josie struggled with seizures and other medical complications.
With each setback, the twins' will to survive grew stronger, and their parents soon made the agonizing decision to allow their daughters' American hosts to adopt them. "We talk every Sunday," says Josie of the close relationship with her biological parents. "They are really proud of both of us."
To find out more about Teresa and Josie's amazing journey, read this week's issue of PEOPLE, available on newsstands Friday
Now the sisters — who both graduated from high school in 2020 (Teresa attended a special education program) — lead lives few would have believed possible, including inspiring Once Upon A Room, a nonprofit that helps children who are seriously struggling, offers personalized hospital room renovations diseases.
Siamese Twins Rollout
Yuri Hasegawa From left: Josie, Mama Jenny, Teresa's Mama Florie and Teresa's brother Werner at the twins' 21st birthday party.
Looking back on her incredible journey, Josie, who lives 30 minutes from her sister in the Los Angeles area, says she still struggles to understand her early ordeal. "I don't remember much because I was so small," she says. "But I love hearing my mother's stories — it's all pretty shocking to me."
RELATED: Formerly conjoined twin gives birth to daughter in hospital where she was separated from sister
Teresa's mother, Florie Cajas — along with her husband Werner — marvels at the sisters' remarkable bond: "Josie can always get Teresa to smile that other people can't."
Even the doctors who have worked with the twins over the years are amazed at their determination. "None of this would have been possible without the care and love their families have invested over the years to maximize their potential," says Dr. Robert Kay, chief of orthopedic surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Siamese Twins Rollout
Yuri Hasegawa Teresa (left) and Josie in July.
These days, Josie's life consists of flying around the country decorating children's hospital rooms with her nonprofit organization. "That's really important to me," says Josie, adding, "Just be happy. And just keep going and going.”

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