August 29, 2002
A Miracle Worker
Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesus Quiej Alvarez are twins who were born conjoined at the cranium. Headline-makers since arriving at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital in Westwood, the twins were separated in a nearly 23-hour surgery on Aug. 6.
"This single case has captured the global community in a unique way," Israeli-born neurosurgeon Dr. Itzhak Fried said.
Fried is co-director of the Seizure Disorder Center at UCLA Medical Center and heads the Neurobiology of Human Memory Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science. The Tel Aviv native came to America in 1972 to pursue his medical education. His Polish father trained as a Reform rabbi in 1930s Breslau -- an outspoken Jew who stirred the pot in Nazi Germany.
"He was arrested by the Gestapo for Zionist activities," Field said. "He got out of Germany just before 1939."
Field, his wife and three children divide their time between living on the Westside and in Tel Aviv, where Field created an epilepsy program.
"My work is to set up things there that will improve medical technology in Israel," said Field, whose passion is researching the central nervous system.
As of Aug. 26, both Marias remain in serious condition with stable vital signs. "There's a very good likelihood" that they will lead normal, healthy lives, Field said.
"We're dealing with very young patients. The brain has flexibility at this age," he told The Journal. "They both tolerated the procedure reasonably well. The team has been cautiously optimistic from the start."
Field is quick to credit his team of neurosurgeon and plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses. "The work is really a teamwork," Field said. "It's the experience of many people pulling together."
To donate to the twins' funds, contact Robyn Puntch at (310) 794-5143 or firstname.lastname@example.org .