Abigail and Brittany Hensel are conjoined twins from Minnesota. Being conjoined, they have had many struggles throughout their lives.
Soon after they were born, doctors gave their parents the bad news; the twins would not survive very long. The girls are now 25 years old and are featured in a show, titled: Abby and Brittany, which will show viewers how their every days lives are.
These girls are one of the rarest set of dicephalus twins in the world!
It is very rare to be born conjoined (1 in 40,000) and it is even more rare to survive after birth (1% of the 1 in 40,000)! The fact that Abby and Brittany are alive and well is a miracle.
Abby and Brittany came to be when a fertilized egg failed to separate inside the womb.
They have two hearts, two spines joined at the pelvis, four lungs, two esophagi, three kidneys, one ribcage, one liver, a partially shared nervous system and a shared circulatory system. From their waist down, all organs are shared including the reproductive system, intestines and bladder. Abby, the right twin can’t feel anything on the left side of body while Brittany, the left twin can’t feel anything on her right side.
Despite the fact that the twins can only feel their half of the body they share, they still are able to type, play piano, bowl, play volleyball, ride a bicycle, play softball, and swim, etc.
They were actually born with three arms, one arm was removed surgically at the time of birth. During their life, they have been operated on several times, but the twins have remained in good health.
The twins have been in the media several times in their lives. At the age of six, they appeared in Oprah Winfrey show and on the cover of Life magazine. They stayed out of the media for 10 years, and then when they were 16 the girls were filmed for a TLC documentary. If features them passing their driver’s test; each twin controls the steering wheel with one arm. Their mother wondered which twin would get the speeding ticket if they were ever pulled over.
The girls have to cordinate everything together and they don’t always have the urge to eat or sleep at the same time either.
Their parents have encouraged the twins to develop individual personalities. They have exposed the twins to the media, but have purposely kept it limited for the sake of the girls and their other 2 children.
Although the two girls are individuals and they have the urge to sleep and eat at different times, they still coordinate among themselves to work as a single body.
Clothes have to be made special order for the twins because they have 2 necklines. In order to show their own styling and tastes, the girls have leggings made with different colors on each leg. They wear different shoes on each foot for the same reasoning as well.
Abby and Brittany have always been treated as two separate identities. They even buy 2 movie tickets when they go to the theater.
Their parents never thought of getting the twins separated. One of them might die or get physically handicapped for the rest of her life, so it just really wasn’t an option for them. The girls were always treated as two separate individuals.
Patty (Abby and Brittany’s mother) said “when children ask the girls if they have two heads, they say they don’t, but that each has their own head. That’s what we have encouraged them to do, to develop their own individuality as much as possible.” They buy two separate cinema tickets, separate meals and two different birthday cakes for them. When the girls were younger, they made sure to scold the right girl and not just scold them as one person.
Since the girls are two separate people, one twin can get sick while the other stays healthy.
Abby and Brittany rarely fight. They eat on separate plates, with one twin holding the knife and the other holding the fork. The have to take turns eating. They alternate bite by bite, with each girl helping to feed the other. One twin will even scratch an itch for the other if the other twin’s hand doesn’t react fast enough.
One can get an illness, while the other twin stays healthy. For instance, Brittany has suffered from pneumonia twice and Abigail, the stubborn one, always helped Brittany in tough times
The twins have only once wished to separate from each other and that was when Brittany suffered for 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.
Now that the twis are full grown women, some questions have arose: What happens if one twin falls in love? Will they ever have children or wed?
Three years ago there was a rumor, in the news, about Brittany being engaged. Those were just rumors, but they made people think about their future. Now that the twins are full grown women, some questions have arose. They love each other very much, but what would happen if one fell in love, or even worse, one fell in love with someone the other twin hated? Since they share one reproductive system, will they ever have children? Their father, Mike believes that his daughters will get married someday.
Female conjoined twins have a much higher rate of live birth and survival than male twins. Approximately 70 percent of all conjoined twins are girls.