Couple Expecting Conjoined Twins Who Can’t Be Separated 'Thankful' for Time Together, 'However Short' (Exclusive)

“One doctor said that she doesn't expect them to make it past the first 24 hours — anything more is a gift,” Breana Dell tells PEOPLE

<p>Mandy Daniel Photography</p> Matthew and Breana Dell

Mandy Daniel Photography

Matthew and Breana Dell

At a prenatal ultrasound in November, Breana and Matthew Dell learned they were having twin girls. Moments later, they were told their daughters were conjoined.

"Everything changed in seconds," says Breana, a 24-year-old stay-at-home mother in Alvaton, Ga.

The couple says doctors told them the twins can't be separated and that they don't expect they'll live more than a few hours. Already, the couple plans to make the most of whatever time they have together after the birth.

“Maybe we'll get to spend a lot of time with some miracle baby girls, or maybe we will get just a little bit of time with them. That is still going to be very precious and we're still very thankful," Matthew, a 24-year-old team leader at Chick-fil-A, tells PEOPLE.

Ahead of their scheduled cesarean section on Thursday, the couple opens up about the outpouring of love and support they've received from "complete strangers," who have "reached out and said that they're thinking of us and praying for us," says Breana.

Adds Matthew, "It's been comforting to know how many people just want to grieve with us for the sadness, but also rejoice in the life of our daughters, however short it is."

<p>Mandy Daniel Photography</p> Matthew and Breana Dell with son Dallas

Mandy Daniel Photography

Matthew and Breana Dell with son Dallas

Related: After Daughter's Death, Mom of Quads (Who Are Also Twins) Says 3 Surviving Babies 'Keep Me Strong' [Exclusive]

Breana and Matthew, who tied the knot in May 2021, met six years ago when they were both college students working together at Chick-fil-A.

"He is my rock. He's very steady, very calm," Breana says.

In August, the couple, who share a 16-month-old son named Dallas, were surprised to learn they were pregnant again, but they were excited, too, Matthew says.

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Wanting to try for a home birth, Breana met with a midwife. At her prenatal checkups, the midwife heard one strong heartbeat.

<p>Mandy Daniel Photography</p> Matthew and Breana Del

Mandy Daniel Photography

Matthew and Breana Del

But in November, when the couple went to a 3D ultrasound boutique to learn the baby's sex, two heads appeared on the screen despite just one heartbeat being detected.

"I could tell something was not okay," Breana says.

The ultrasound tech said there were two babies, but it looked like they were conjoined. "I just kept shaking my head and I was like, 'No, you're wrong.' But she wasn't," Breana recalls.

<p>Mandy Daniel Photography</p> Mathew and Breana Dell's son Dallas

Mandy Daniel Photography

Mathew and Breana Dell's son Dallas

The parents say that due to the complex medical situation, the likelihood of their children — who will be named Ameilyah “Mia” and Elhora “Ellie" — surviving is unlikely. Their doctors did not return PEOPLE's interview requests.

Dr. David Staffenberg, vice chair for pediatric plastic surgery at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone — who is not a member of Dell’s care team but consults on conjoined twins cases around the world — says that the “big challenge” is “making sure that the babies and mom are healthy.”

Without being able to comment on the specifics of the medical case, Staffenberg says that physicians will “be very diligent evaluating them” and will “always be looking for the best way to support the twins and the mother as much as possible.”

Another expert, who is also not involved in the Dell’s case, adds that it’s impossible to predict exactly how long the twins could survive.

“You tell parents a range…you just can't really pin it down precisely,” says Dr. Andrea Johnson, a maternal fetal medicine doctor and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

From her own experience, Johnson explains that the conversation around separation not being a viable option is "complicated."

"It's just a long road where you could end up with no survivors," Johnson shares, noting that sometimes parents prefer to keep their babies "intact" and "love them and hold them" until the end.

Related: Woman Spent Husband’s Final Months Creating ‘Wonderful Memories.’ His Last Words Were ‘I Love You’ (Exclusive)

As their due date approached, a GoFundMe was established to help the family, which in turn led to strangers from around the world sending gift cards, offering to help pay for groceries and sharing words of love, encouragement and hope.

One woman even sent a quilt with three hearts intertwined.

“That was really special,” Breana says. “She doesn't know me at all. She doesn't have to do that. But, it's just, it's meaningful for these strangers to reach out and want to give us things and love on us and support us. And so overwhelming — in a good way.”

The parents say that in whatever time they have with their girls, they want to make sure they know just how loved they are.

<p>Mandy Daniel Photography</p> Mathew and Breana Dell with son Dallas

Mandy Daniel Photography

Mathew and Breana Dell with son Dallas

“No matter what, they are precious to us and we are very thankful for the little bit of time that we have with them,” Matthew says. “I just can't wait to tell them that I love them, and that I am thankful for them. I look forward to being able to hold them and see their faces.”

"We do hope for a miracle," Breana says. "I don't want to get my hopes up, but a part of me does hope they live longer than the doctors think. I hope they are with us for a little time. One doctor said that she doesn't expect them to make it past the first 24 hours — anything more is a gift."

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