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First Native American conjoined twins

EL RENO, Okla.—It was an overwhelming summer day on July 15 when Stevie Stewart, 20, found out not only that she would be having twin girls, but that the twins she had been carrying for 20 weeks would be born conjoined.

“That was a pretty crazy day, because we were just going in to have the ultrasound to find out if we were having a boy or a girl,” said Stewart about the day when she and Kyle Wells, the twins’ father, received the news. “We never knew there was twins. It was pretty crazy to find out we were having twins and find out they were conjoined twins.”

Stewart and her extended family, the Longbrake family, are originally of Eagle Butte, S.D., and are members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who have resided in Oklahoma several years. On the day the family found out, prayers went out immediately for these girls to come into the world strong and healthy.

Marla Longbrake, Stewart’s mother and grandmother to the twins, said that on the day the family found out that Preslee Faith Wells and Kylee Hope Wells were coming into the world, Stewart’s 17-year-old brother, Hunter Stewart, was working with the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes’ youth summer work program. As part of the program, the youth worked to prepare the grounds for the annual Cheyenne Sun Dance in Concho, Okla. Longbrake said that her son was so moved by the need for prayer that he asked for and received permission to build a sweat lodge on the site of the ceremonial grounds so that he and his friends could hold an all-night sweat on that first day of the Sun Dance. 

“We never knew there was twins. It was pretty crazy to find out we were having twins and find out they were conjoined twins.” – Stevie Stewart,
twins’ mother



After that day, Longbrake said that many sun dancers at both Concho, Okla. and at the Arapaho Sun Dance in Hammond, Okla. prayed for the Wells twins, beginning many more good thoughts and prayers for these girls.

“Everybody I’ve talked to, it’s ‘we’re praying for them. We’re thinking of them. How are they doing?’” said Mary Du Pris, Longbrake’s sister and extended family grandmother to the twins. “They’re real caring, considerate and kind.”

On Oct. 25, 14 weeks after the first ultrasound, the twins were born by Caesarean section four days before their scheduled due date at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Conjoined at the chest and abdomen, initial stories in the newspaper The Oklahoman reported that the Wells twins were joined at the hearts, livers and rib cages, but that staff doctors said a separation would not be difficult. At press time, the twins were at 14 lbs. together, could feed orally and were expected to be home by Christmas. Stewart said that the separation surgery for her daughters would be scheduled for when they were eight to nine months old.

The Longbrake family said that support has been strong from their extended family members in South Dakota and from other parts of the country.

“They’re the first great-grandchildren and my first grandchildren,” said Longbrake. “We have a sister in Albuquerque that came over for Thanksgiving and spent time with them. There’s been phone calls back and forth. Most of the family’s in South Dakota, extended family. There’s a lot of friends here who are just like family.”

Community support for the twins has also been strong in Oklahoma as well. Stewart, an employee of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes, resides in Calumet, Okla. These communities, local churches, and the staff of the OU Medical Center have served as a center of support for Stewart and the twins. Donations have ranged from offers to make clothes, gift baskets, and a special mattress donated by a doctor from another hospital.

“They’ve been really helpful,” Stewart said of the Cheyenne-Arapaho community. “They’ve been collecting money and little donations. Everybody’s been really supportive, because everybody knew about it before they were born. They’ve been really supportive, here and in Calumet. They’re everybody’s girls. That’s what they always ask – ‘How are our girls doing?’”

Longbrake, who works for the BIA office in Concho, said that the twins have been on prayer lists throughout the Southern Plains, and that her employer understood the need to help her daughter.

“My boss was real good about my use of leave, because I went with Stevie to every doctor’s appointment after we found out,” Longbrake said. “At one point, it was three days a week we were going to the doctor. Everybody’s just been so nice and considerate. It’s a good thing to see the kindness of people.”

The family said that personalities are already evident with the twins, and that they’re not fussy, but happy overall.

“Preslee is really feisty,” said Stewart. “She likes to pick on her sister. Kylee will take a beating before she swings back.”

The family has saved many newspaper clippings and printouts of Internet articles on the twins. “They probably won’t believe they used to hug each other,” Longbrake said about what they will share with the girls when they get older. “When they’re fighting with each other, we’ll have proof that they did like each other.”

According to research and inquiries conducted by the twins’ great-grandfather, Jayme Longbrake, the Wells twins are the first American Indian conjoined twins on record. Longbrake, a retired 30-year employee with the IHS, transferred to Oklahoma in 1993 and eventually worked eight years with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to work with their tribal hospital and nursing home. He and his wife, Beverly, returned to Oklahoma one year ago.

“As far as we know, they are the first Native American conjoined twins, which makes it a very unique situation,” said Longbrake. “As far as anyone can find, there’s no other evidence or history of this ever happening amongst the Native American people.”

The twins are also the first conjoined twins that have been born in Oklahoma in 22 years.

The family said they are grateful for the care from OU Medical Center, and that donations could be left with the hospital’s public relations department. A donation fund has been set up at Midfirst Bank, and donations can also be mailed to Stevie Stewart at P.O. Box 220, Calumet, OK 73014.

The Longbrake family is also thankful for the prayers that have been given, and they’re asking for continued prayer and support.

“They’re special little girls,” said Du Pris. “They always will be. When you walk into their hospital room when they’re in there, they just make everything disappear – all your problems. They’re beautiful little girls.”

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