Once-Conjoined Girls Return to Dominican Republic

By ZINIE CHEN SAMPSON | December 20, 2011 | 9:25 AM EST

Lisandra Sanatis looks at her twin daughter, Teresa Tapia, as daughter Maria Tapia looks on Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., Thursday Dec. 1, 2011. The conjoined twins were separated during an operation at the hospital Nov. 8, 2011. The twins are expected to be released from the hospital Friday and are expected to go back home to the Dominican Republic before Christmas. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Once-conjoined toddler girls from the Dominican Republic have left Virginia and are heading home for Christmas.

Maria and Teresa Tapia and their mother, Lisandra Sanatis, and their aunt Mari Reynaldo flew out of Richmond early Tuesday.

The girls underwent nearly daylong surgery Nov. 7 at Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University. The twins were conjoined at the chest, and a team led by university surgeon David Lanning divided the twins' liver, pancreas and other shared organ systems and reconstructed their abdominal walls.

The 20-month-old girls were the guests of honor Monday at a going-away party, where they wore matching dresses and ate hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and cake.