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Fernley News - Blogged

The Twins Survival Guide

Abby and Britney, Conjoined Twins

From 'Monsters' to Modern Medical Miracles:
The History of Conjoined Twins

Abigail "Abby" Loraine Hensel and Brittany "Britty" Lee Hensel (born 7 March 1990, Carver County, Minnesota, United States), are dicephalic conjoined twins. They have two spines which join at the pelvis. They have two stomachs, four lungs (two partially conjoined pairs), and two arms. (A third, underdeveloped and unusable arm between their heads was amputated in infancy.)


Abigail and Brittany Hensel's parents are Patty (a registered nurse) and Mike Hensel (a carpenter and landscaper). The twins have a younger brother named Dakota and a younger sister named Morgan. They were raised in New Germany, Minnesota and attend Lutheran High School in Mayer, Minnesota. They plan to graduate in 2008.

When the twins were born, their parents chose not to have them separated. As they share many bodily functions, the operation would have been risky and left them in wheelchairs. They do not regret their decision; the twins have themselves stated that they don't wish to be separated. At age 12, they underwent surgery at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare to correct scoliosis and to expand their chest cavity to prevent future difficulties with breathing.

Each of the twins manages one side of their conjoined body; They cannot feel any sensation on the other girl's side, yet they can somehow tell when to do something like scratch a mosquito bite on the other girl's arm. This, no one can really understand.

Through it all, by coordinating their efforts, they are able to walk and run normally. They enjoy hobbies and sports including volleyball, basketball, kickball, swimming, cycling, and singing. They also play the piano and are avid computer users. Like many teenagers of their generation, they enjoy softball, digital photography, the internet, social networking, and talking on the telephone.

Despite sharing a body, the twins have different tastes in food and clothes. Some of their clothes are altered so that they have two separate necklines in order to emphasize their individuality. According to a TLC documentary (discussed later) in 2006, they negotiate what they will wear each day. They will usually have separate meals, but sometimes will share a single meal for the sake of convenience (e.g., each takes a bite of a hamburger).

In April 1996 and September 1998, as six- and eight-year-olds, they appeared in Joined for Life, a documentary produced by Advanced Medical, distributed on the Discovery Health Channel. They also appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 8 and April 29, 1996. In September 1998, the twins were featured on the cover of Life under the caption "One Body, Two Souls", and their daily lifestyle was depicted in the corresponding article titled The Hensels' Summer. In 2003, an updated story of them at age 11 (filmed in 2001) was published in Time and again in Life.

They appeared in a follow-up documentary on The Learning Channel on December 17, 2006 filmed around the time of their 16th birthday, in which they discuss dealing with puberty and getting their driver's licenses.

They successfully passed their driver license exam, both the written and driving tests. They had to take the tests twice, once for each twin. Both control the steering wheel, Abby controls the pedals and transmission radio, heat, defogger etc. , and Brittany controls the turn signal and lights.

In the summer of 2006 they had a holiday in Texas at the home of a family whose dicephalus twin girls had died at a few hours old.

National Library of Medicine

From 'Monsters' to Modern Medical Miracles:
Selected moments inthe history of conjoined twins from medieval to modern times

Abby and Brittany cont.

Most of Abigail's and Brittany's shared organs lie below the waist line.

  • 2 heads
  • 2 arms—originally 3, but the short malformed central arm between the heads was removed
  • 2 spinal cords and backbones—surgery corrected scoliosis
  • 3½ lungs—surgery expanded their chest cavity while correcting scoliosis
  • 2 breasts
  • 2 hearts in a shared circulatory system—medicine taken by either affects both
  • 1 liver
  • 2 stomachs
  • 3 kidneys
  • 2 gallbladders
  • 1 bladder
  • 1 ribcage
  • 1 large intestine
  • 1 reproductive system
  • 1 pelvis
  • 2 legs

Source: Wikipedia