eing able to walk, pick things up with our hands and turn our heads at will are things many of us take for granted. And yet, for some people in the world, those everyday things are mere dreams.
Abby and Brittany Hensel were born as conjoined twins and became world-famous after appearing on Oprah Winfrey at 6 years of age.
The Hensel twins have gone through a lot, having to deal with widespread prejudice and looks from people when walking in town. However, they never let anyone stand in their way of living their lives exactly the way they wanted to.
Today, Abby and Brittany are 30 years of age – and have found themselves in a very specific profession.
It’s all too easy to complain about the small things in life. Maybe the coffee was a little bit cold this morning, the lights took too long to turn green on the drive to work, it was too warm at the mall or there were too many people in line at the grocery store.
Abby and Brittany Hensel – famous conjoined twins
Now, it’s normal to complain about small things like that, but it’s also important for all of us to take a step back once in a while and actually appreciate what we have.
For most of us, being able to go out for a run or carry things with both arms is nothing more than the way it’s always been. For some, mind, it hasn’t been that easy, take for example those who have only one arm or one leg.
Then there are people that have had even bigger obstacles to conquer. Two such are twins Abby and Brittany Hensel, American girls that were born as conjoined twins.
The twins were born with one body and two heads. Right from the start, their parents knew that Abby and Brittany’s lives were destined to be very different.
However, they have been determined to live a normal life like anyone else, though theirs has come with special challenges.
So what are they up to now? Here’s all you need to know!
To start with, conjoined twins are a very rare event in delivery rooms all over the world. According to Time, they occur about once in every 50,000 births, with 40 percent of those resulting in stillborn births. Furthermore, 70 percent are said to be female.
Conjoined twins are always identical twins since they are from one single egg. In such a case, however, the egg has failed to divide fully into separate twins during its first weeks, and the result is that the twins are left conjoined.
The most common configuration for conjoined twins is a connection at the chest and abdomen.
Though very rare, it does happen. In 1990, parents Patty and Mike Hensel came to know what it was like.
On March 7, 1990, Patty was in labor with what she thought was her and Mike’s first child. Initially, there were no signs that there was anything unusual with her pregnancy. The ultrasound had been normal – later on, the doctor discovered that their heads must have been aligned during the sonogram.
When it came time for the birth, doctors delivered what everyone thought was one baby. First came the legs, then the body, then the arms. After two heads came out, though, Dr. Joy Westerdahl explained that everyone stood silent for 30 seconds.
“They had a pretty crude way of telling me,” father Mike Hensel recalled. “They said, ‘They’ve got one body and two heads.’”
Patty was still under sedation and only heard the word “Siamese”. She couldn’t understand it.
“I had cats?” she asked.
Share many organs – but separate urges
Abby and Brittany were transferred to another hospital to make sure that they were healthy – thankfully, they were doing great, relatively speaking.
The Hensel twins underwent surgery at four months old to remove the third arm between their heads. Other than that, they have been able to live as normal lives as possible.
Of course, since they have two heads, some things are pretty different.
Patty explained that, for example, Brittany is more inclined to catch colds and coughs. Since their circulation is linked, one of them can take medicine to fight an ear infection and her twin will also be simultaneously cured.
As a result of this, they only need one shot when they’re being vaccinated against something, and they share many organs such as the liver, reproductive system, and bladder. However, their nervous systems are dissimilar and so they experience separate feelings of hunger, as well as separate urges to urinate and sleep.
Abby and Brittany grew up in a small midwest town where everyone knew them. When Life Magazine first did a piece on Abby and Brittany, their parents made sure to shield their beloved children from the media.
They also took pains not to disclose which town they were living in.