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A Neurosurgeon Who Famously Separated Twins Conjoined At The Head Has Died Of The Coronavirus

Dr. James Goodrich operated on Anias and Jadon McDonald when they were just 13 months old.

Posted on March 31, 2020, at 11:30 a.m. ET

Courtesy of Montefiore Health Systems

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A neurosurgeon who successfully operated to separate twins conjoined at the head has died from complications associated with the coronavirus.

Dr. James Goodrich, who was in his seventies, died Monday, according to the Montefiore Health System.

"Dr. Goodrich was a beacon of our institution and he will be truly missed," Montefiore Medicine CEO Dr. Philip O. Ozuah said in a statement. "His expertise and ability were second only to his kind heart and manner."

In 2016, Goodrich led a team of 40 doctors in a surgery to separate 13-month-old twins Anias and Jadon McDonald.

According to the Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, this was "the first time the team used virtual planning and 3D printing technologies to map their way through the boys' attached brains in a series of complex, high-risk surgeries that resulted in complete separation."

The procedure lasted more than 20 hours. Goodrich took only one 20-minute break to eat.

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This was the 59th craniopagus surgery — defined as operations that separate people joined at the cranium — to have been performed in the world since 1952.

Goodrich had consulted on dozens of cases of craniopagus twins around the world, and the McDonald boys were the seventh set he successfully separated.

"This was unexpectedly one of the hardest cases I have ever worked on," Goodrich said in a statement following the McDonald surgery. "We knew they shared an area of fused brain, but we did not know how complicated it would be until we looked inside. I am relieved that the procedure was successful. These are strong little boys and the team I work with at Montefiore is quite simply the best in the world.”

The boys' mother posted a heartfelt statement on Facebook following Goodrich's death.

"My heart is broken," Nicole McDonald wrote. "You will forever be our hero. Every single time my children wrap their arms around my neck, I think of you. Every milestone they reach is because you believed in them as much as I did. I'm not sure how to continue this journey without you."

Mary Altaffer / AP

Dr. James T. Goodrich

Originally from Oregon, Goodrich served as a Marine during the Vietnam war.

The Montefiore Hospital, where Goodrich worked for more than 30 years, called him a "humble and truly caring man" who "did not crave the limelight and was beloved by his colleagues and staff," noting that every year he baked holiday cookies and delivered them to the nurses at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore.

"Jim was in many ways the heart and soul of our department — a master surgeon, a world-class educator, and a beloved colleague for all," said Dr. Emad Eskandar, chair of the department of neurosurgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center. "His sudden loss is heart-breaking and his memory will always remain foremost in our thoughts."

He is survived by his wife and three sisters.

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