Sisters Gain New Independence at Shriners Hospital


Erika Sandoval using her walker

Twin sisters Eva and Erika Sandoval are gaining new strength and independence at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California.

Conjoined at birth, the sisters were surgically separated in December 2016 at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.  The operation gave them the opportunity to grow up together as independent individuals.

Now, specialists at Shriners Hospital are helping to guide them on that journey.

A few short months after their surgery, the Sandoval twins made their first visit to the Shriners Hospital in Sacramento where Joel Lerman, M.D., saw the orthopaedic challenges each girl faced —one leg, lack of a fully formed pelvis and scoliosis.  Dr. Lerman connected the twins with the hospital’s innovative and highly-skilled orthotic and prosthetic specialists, who were tasked with designing devices that would allow the girls to move freely on their own.

In the spring of 2017 just months shy of their second birthday Eva and Erika were driving their very own bright pink wheelchair cars designed by Shriners Hospital specialists.

Now 3 years old, Eva and Erika walk on new prosthetic legs.  Hospital orthotist Michael Wadekamper and prosthetist Eric Smith collaborated to design devices that would support their body weight and allow for necessary range of motion.

Eva Sandoval using her walker

“With their lack of a full pelvis and severe scoliosis, it was uncertain if bearing weight through a prosthetic socket would even be possible to accomplish without excess pressure,” says Smith.  “Our physicians provided us with MRI images that helped us see where we could – and could not – support their body weight. Michael, an accomplished orthotist, was brought in to help design a full-trunk brace, not unlike the braces he frequently designs for scoliosis patients.  I knew we would have to use as much surface area as was available to support their weight and with Michael’s expertise we accomplished this goal,” Smith added.

Physical therapist Laura Van Houtryve says   “Walking would remain impossible for the twins if it were not for the ingenuity of Michael Wadekamper and Eric Smith. With a little encouragement to don their prostheses, the girls play, walk and explore – but now upright on their feet, rather than scooting on the floor.”

The twin sisters are supported every step of the way by their parents Aida and Arturo Sandoval, who are thankful to all the medical professionals who have provided care for their daughters.