Formerly conjoined twins had a heartwarming reunion with the dozens of doctors and nurses who performed their separation surgery 19 years earlier.
Twins Erin and Jade Buckles returned to Children's National Hospital for their big reunion with the doctors and nurses who gave them separate lives.
Their dad Kevin Buckles told "Good Morning America" that he was "excited for the girls to see the team that, you know, helped start a new life for them by separating them and giving them their own individual bodies to go out and conquer life."
Erin and Jade Buckles were born joined at the chest and former ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson was there for their separation surgery at the time.
"It was very hard," their mom Melissa Buckles told "GMA," reflecting on their big surgery. "We did not know when they were born if they would be able to survive."
It is estimated that only about 1 in every 50,000 conceptions are conjoined twins, with only 1 in 200,000 known to survive birth, according to an article published in the British Journal of Surgery. Even with successful surgery, research has shown only about 60% of separated conjoined twins survive.
As infants, Erin and Jade Buckles shared a diaphragm and doctors weren't sure if they would be able to breathe on their own.
Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children's National Hospital, was a pediatric surgeon in the operating room that day for the risky surgery.
"The hearts were beating together in synchrony," he recalled. "And so that was an unknown -- were the hearts joined or were they separate?"
An elite team of two dozen specialists eventually separated the twins successfully, in half the time they had expected for the surgery.
"It was a huge emotional day. And to see them years later ... is very big for me," plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Boyajian said.
Erin Buckles told "GMA" that "if it wasn't for the people [at Children's National Hospital], we wouldn't be here at all."
"I think about that a lot," she said.
Jade Buckles added that she's "thought about what life would be like" if they were still conjoined.
"I don't know how that would have really been possible to live a life like that," she said.
Today, both sisters are doing great and excelling as student athletes in college.
Jade Buckles runs track and plays field hockey, while her sister, who uses a wheelchair as a result of spinal stroke at the time of the separation surgery, plays Division 1 basketball on an all-wheelchair team and just won the National Championship.
Now that the girls are in college, they said no one knows they are a twin, let alone formerly conjoined.
"They've overcome so much, but they're just starting their lives right now," their dad said. "We're excited to see what that next chapter holds for both."