Two Marias

Two Marias - Conjoined Twins

Separated at UCLA in a landmark 23-hour surgery followed around the world

Two Marias as babies wearing pink knit hats
Twins Teresita and Josie Alvarez

The tale of the little Marias

The formerly conjoined Guatemalan twins Teresita and Josie Álvarez now live with in Southern California

Doctors Henry Kawamoto and Jorge Lazareff holding Maria twins

News releases

Read recent and archived news releases and press conferences on the twins.

Maria twins in separate strollers

Explore the photo gallery

See photos from before and after surgery and more.


Born on July 25, 2001, Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesus Quiej Alvarez are conjoined twin sisters and the first children born to Wenceslao Quiej and Alba Leticia Alvarez. Their mother indicates that she experienced a normal pregnancy, but, as many women in rural areas, did not receive any prenatal care.

During her eight days of labor, Mrs. Alvarez was initially attended at home by a midwife, but when the midwife realized it was a complicated delivery, she referred the family to a private clinic in their area.

When clinic staff realized the mother was having twins, they performed a C-section. Much to everyone’s surprise, they saw that the babies were fused at the top of their heads. At birth, the twins weighed 4.4 pounds. Because of the babies’ condition, the clinic transferred them to Guatemala’s Social Security hospital. The girls lived there until they were brought to UCLA.

Healing The Children, a nonprofit group that helps find medical care for children in underdeveloped countries, approached Dr. Jorge Lazareff, one of its volunteer neurosurgeons, for help in accepting the twins’ cases. Led by Lazareff and UCLA plastic-reconstructive surgeon Dr. Henry Kawamoto Jr., a UCLA physician team is donating its services to the twins’ care. Still, nursing, hospitalization and additional medical expenses are expected to cost the hospital upwards of $1.5 million.

Meet the Surgeons

Jorge Lazareff, MD, Neurosurgeon

Dr. Jorge A. Lazareff is an associate professor and director of pediatric neurosurgery at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA. He also serves as co-director of the hospital's pediatric brain tumor program.

Henry Kawamoto, MD, DDS, FACS, Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Henry Kawamoto Jr. is the director of craniofacial surgery for UCLA's Craniofacial Clinic and a UCLA clinical professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery. In the past 27 years, he has earned international respect from his peers - and deep gratitude from thousands of patients and their parents -- for his surgical skill in reconstructing children's faces after correcting disfiguring skull and facial defects caused by birth, disease or trauma.

Photo Gallery