If you haven’t already, meet Abigail and Brittany Hensel, the famous conjoined twins from New Germany, Minnesota (United States), each of whom has a separate head, but whose bodies are joined.
The condition Abby and Brittany suffer from is dicephalic parapagus, which is an extremely rare form of partial twinning where there are two heads side by side on one single body. Abby and Brittany are one of the rarest set of dicephalous twins in the world. The chances of being born conjoined are very rare, the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 49,000 births to 1 in 189,000 births and it is even more rare to survive after birth (1% chance). So the fact that Abby and Brittany are still alive is nothing short than a miracle.
Abby and Brittany were born on March 7th, 1990. Soon after their birth, the doctors gave their parents, Patty and Mike Hensel the bad news that the twins would not survive very long. When the doctors suggested the surgery which could separate them both, their parents quickly rejected it, because the surgeons warned them that both would not survive the operation. As the twins grew up, their parents knew they made the right decision because they could live happily as conjoined people. The girls are now 27 years old and are always treated as two separate individuals.
Here are some of the interesting facts about Abby and Brittany’s lives:
Although they are conjoined twins and they share a body, they have separate vital organs. Each twin has a separate heart, stomach, spine, lungs and spinal cord.
They also have three kidneys, one ribcage, one liver, a partially shared nervous system and a partially shared circulatory system. From their waist down, all organs are shared including the reproductive system, intestines and bladder.
Each twin controls her half of their body, operating one of the arms and one of the legs. Moreover, Abby, the right twin can’t feel anything on the left side of the body while Brittany, the left twin can’t feel anything on her right side.
They were actually born with three arms, one arm was removed surgically at the time of birth.
Being conjoined twins, growing up, learning how to crawl, clap and walk was difficult as they had to coordinate with each other. But, they figured it out quickly.
Despite the fact that the twins can only feel their half of the body they share, they still are able to type, play the piano, bowl, play volleyball, drive a car, ride a bicycle, play softball, swim, etc.
For driving a car, the twins had to take the written and driving test twice, one for each twin. When driving, Abby controls everything on the right of the driver's seat and Brittany on the left.
They have really different personalities and it's sometimes expressed through their clothes. They get a seamstress to sew different necklines to emphasise their individuality.
Abby loves mathematics and Brittany loves to write.
They both went to the Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minnesota where they both majored in education. They both graduated in the year 2012.
Abby and Brittany have said that they don't mind being conjoined twins but they do hate it when people stare at them or strangers start taking pictures of them without their permission.
Since they are two separate people, one can get sick while the other twin stays healthy! Brittany has suffered from pneumonia twice while Abby hasn't had it at all.
They both buy two movie tickets when they go to the theatre. They even get two separate birthday cakes.
Abby and Brittany are both primary school teachers with an emphasis on maths. They said that they like teaching together because one can be teaching and one can be monitoring and answering questions.
While talking to the discovery channel, Abby and Brittany told them that they hoped to date, get married and have children.
Although the twins have learned to coordinate and share everything together, there was only one event where they wished to separate from each other and that was during the time when Brittany suffered from pneumonia for the first time in childhood. Abby got bored of being in the bed all the time when Brittany was ill. She said that she needed the separation. Brittany would start crying and then Abby promised her they would never part.
The twins have been in the media several times in their lives. At the age of six, they appeared on the ‘Oprah Winfrey show’ on April 8 and April 29 in 1996. They were featured on the cover of Life under the caption ‘One Body, Two Souls’, and their daily lifestyle was depicted in the corresponding article entitled ‘The Hensels' Summer’. In 2002, they appeared in ‘Joined for Life’, a TV documentary by Advanced Medical Productions that was distributed on the Discovery health channel and a 2003 follow-up ‘Joined at Birth.’
In 2006, Advanced Medical made another documentary, ‘Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany turn 16’, that discussed their adolescence, school, social life, and activities such as getting their driver's licenses. A UK television special followed in 2005 as part of the series Extraordinary People. They even starred in the reality TV show Abby & Brittany that started on August 28th, 2012 and ended on October 2nd, 2012.
For more interesting facts, check out this documentary:
Title image: youtube