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NEW YORK – Nicole McDonald says her son, Jadon, smiled Wednesday after undergoing a life-changing separation surgery.

Jadon and Anias McDonald were born connected at the head. Last week, doctors performed a 27-hour surgery to separate the 13-month-old boys.

Their parents say they’re progressing well.

“Jadon, I think he just smiled at me,” Nicole McDonald told CNN. “Yeah, under all that tape, and he’s looking at me right in the eye. It’s just, he’s trying to pull all the tubes out.”

While Jadon is recovering rapidly, Anias’ recovery is a bit slower. He had to fight harder to live in the early months of their lives.

“We knew Anias would struggle more, but I don’t know how to say, he’s progressing at a slower rate but still moving forward,” said Nicole. “And there’s still so much hope for him, and right now he’s crying and moving his arm. So I know that he has a lot more recovery to do, but he’ll get there. He’ll get there. He always surprises us all the time.”

She said when she’s close to Anias, he seems to calm down.

“I can only see it on the monitor so I know that he knows I’m here,” said Nicole. “When I talk to him, his heart rate goes down, his blood pressure goes down and he is calmer.”

The parents say it’s a long journey ahead, but they’re taking it one step at a time.

“I couldn’t stop thinking that this was permanent. But every day it gets better, and I think that’s the best part, is that everyday there’s something new and good to focus on. And we just keep doing that,” said Nicole.

The family set up a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses. If you would like to donate, click here.