Do you know that there is a pair of conjoined twins in the United States, who are all grown up and living their best life? These two ladies have been an inspiration to all conjoined siblings, as they adjusted to their unusual life very well. They have been in the spotlight of media attention since they were little, and now thousands of people know their inspiring story. Read about the life of Abby and Brittany Hensel, the most famous conjoined twins in the world!
Even though Abigail and Brittany were born as conjoined twins and the predictions for such people are usually not optimistic, they defied all odds and learned to live a happy and comfortable life. Brittany and Abigail Hensel continue being an inspiration to everyone who knows them, and the girls keep showing people worldwide that nothing is impossible. These two have learned how to cope with their unusual condition, and the coordination of their movements amazes everyone familiar with the girls and their situation.
Who are the Hensel twins?
The Hensel twins, Abigail and Brittany, are sensational women from Minnesota, the United States, who have shown a lot of willpower as they adjusted to their life as conjoined twins. Here are top-10 thrilling facts about these ladies, starting with their background and ending with the life they live today!
1. Abby and Brittany Hensel background
The story of these unique twins started in the city of New Germany, situated in Carver County, Minnesota. Their mother, Patty, was a nurse, while their father, Mike, worked as a landscaper and carpenter. The girls were the first-born children of Mike and Patty, and they had absolutely no idea that their twins will be born conjoined.
March 7, 1990, was the day when Abby and Brittany, conjoined twins, were born. They came into this world as a whole and were conjoined in an incredibly rare way. Their case was called dicephalic parapagus (dicephalus = two-headed, parapagus = side by side), and it happens once in 50,000-100,000 births. Even among the conjoined twins, this is an incredible rarity. The chances of survival for such twins is usually very low – the majority of them are stillborn or pass away not long after birth. In history, there was only one known case of such twins getting to live to adulthood: Giacomo and Giovanni Battista Tocci from Italy. Their situation was similar to the Hensel sisters: they had one arm and one leg each, which they controlled. However, those brothers could not walk, and never properly learned to.
The parents of Abby and Brittany were surprised, but they immediately fell in love with their daughters. Right after their birth, they needed to face a lot of challenges. Doctors predicted that the girls would not survive their first day, because they were such an extraordinary case. However, Brittany and Abby went on to make history: they became the first ever conjoined twins in the United States, who managed to survive infancy.
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2. Abigail & Brittany Hensel separation
Doctors suggested their parents the option to try and separate the girls. It was a very dangerous type of surgery, which was utterly impossible in the past and resulted in the death of both twins. The doctors were willing to risk because technology has improved since old times. Still, Mike and Patty refused this option, because they felt like the girls could live a good life in their conjoined state, and did not want to endanger their lives, as the rates of survival after such surgeries were very low.
As the twins went on to disprove all the facts about the short lifespan of conjoined twins, they started making headlines and gaining national attention. Their strength, resilience and charming personalities attracted a lot of admirers who supported the girls throughout their journey. Even though their parents refused separation, the girls still had to go through a lot of surgeries as children. For example, Brittany prematurely stopped growing when she was 12 years old, that is why Abby needed spine surgery. They also struggled with scoliosis and breathing issues; that is why they had to undergo chest surgery and anti-scoliosis operations.
3. Abigail and Brittany Hensel physiology
When people encounter Brittany Abby Hensel, they are surprised because it seems like the twins are one person with two heads. However, the girls deny this and say that they are two different people who are joined. It is true because many of their organs are individual, that is why they function as two separate people.
Abby and Brittany have two heads, two necks, a wide chest which is bigger than usual, two arms and two legs. Each twin operates one arm and one leg. When the girls were born, they had another arm between their neck bases, and it was a combination of Brittany's right and Abigail's left arm. The doctors decided to remove this arm and leave the shoulder blade.
The twins are also of different height – Abby appears taller than Brittany because the degree at which her head tilts is smaller. Also, Brittany's leg is shorter, and that is why she prefers to walk by tip-toeing on her fingers. This also made her calf muscle stronger and bigger than her sister's.
Abby manages the right side of the body, while Brittany is in charge of the left side. Their sense of touch is only restricted to the half of the body which every twin is responsible for. Sometimes, though, their sensations overlap in the middle, in the places where they are joined. But various kinds of pain experienced by the regular people, such as stomach aches, are felt by either of the twins separately.
Abby and Brittany's anatomy shows how amazing it is that they managed to survive and lead a normal life. From the perspective of a stranger, they might seem to have one body and two heads. However, each of the sisters has her own heart, stomach, lungs, spinal cord, spine, kidneys and bladder. Conjoined twins are a phenomenon which forms when the egg which was fertilised does not separate inside the womb, that is why they share the body parts and organs very often. In Abby and Brittany's case, they share a liver, intestine, and rib cage, among other things.
The mother of the twins, Patty, says that when her daughters are asked whether they have two heads, their response is that they do not, but either of the girls has the head of her own. The physiology of the twins is remarkable.
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The interesting fact is that the sisters are not affected by the common diseases at once: when one of them is ill, the other is not. For example, Brittany was sick with pneumonia twice, while Abby was perfectly healthy at the same time. The sisters confessed that when one of them is sick, it is the only time when they desire to be separated. In general, they can not imagine being without each other and think of one another as lifelong companions and soulmates. Besides, if the doctors attempted to separate them, it would be extremely risky, and if the procedure was successful, the girls would most likely use wheelchairs. One day, when Abby mentioned the possibility of existing separately, Brittany was so upset that she cried for a long time until Abby reassured her that they would stay together.
In general, as for the extremely rare pair of conjoined twins, the girls are in a reasonably good health condition. Even though they have already surpassed all the expectations, the doctors have some concerns for their future, as they are afraid that the twins might experience heart problems. Thankfully, so far the twins are not complaining about any significant issues.
4. How do Abby and Brittany move?
These extraordinary twins have become the first known case of conjoined twins with dicephalic parapagus who managed to learn to walk together through cooperation. They use their limbs in the situations which require the use of both right and left hand or leg.
Nowadays, the twins coordinate their efforts together and manage to do a lot of things, such as walking, swimming, running, and riding a bicycle. They do all these things at an average speed. Except that, they can also drive a car and type on a computer keyboard in sync. When it comes to moving, though, they have experienced some difficulties with it due to their height difference and had a hard time balancing.
5. Adulthood and hobbies of Abby and Brittany Hensel
The conjoined twins Abby and Brittany today are living a normal life, like all the other people. They do not let their special feature stop them from enjoying all the goods of life. For example, the girls have successfully passed driving exams, including the written test and the practical driving part. They took the tests twice, and it was one test per twin. Abby is in control of the right part of driver devices, while Brittany controls the left part. The twins are in charge of the steering wheel together. The girls were absolutely thrilled to receive their driving license. However, their mother was worried at first: she wondered what could happen if the twins were given a speeding ticket. In her words, she did not know whether they would both get a ticket or only Abby who is responsible for the accelerator. Still, their parents were proud of their daughters.
Like every other set of twins, Brittany and Abby are different people, and each one has her personality, likes and dislikes. Abby is more extroverted and talkative, while Brittany is shy and reserved. Except that, they have differences in their preferred clothing style: Abby enjoys wearing bright colours, while her sister Brittany likes tomboy style.
The twins show how different they are when they dye their hair in different shades, wear leggings and shoes which are not matching, and demonstrate their individuality in many other things. They even ask their seamstress to make different necklines for their clothes, because they want to express themselves this way. Also, Abby's biggest passion is mathematics, while Brittany enjoys writing.
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Another exciting thing about the girls is that they are very athletic. They enjoy such sports as swimming, bowling, playing volleyball and rowing. In their free time, they often engage in these activities together with their friends. Moreover, they love playing musical instruments.
When the sisters have to respond to e-mails, they usually type together after discussing what they want to say. In the situations when they agree, they use the pronoun "I" referring to both of them. But when they have disagreeing opinions, they use their names.
Due to their condition, they are forced to do all the things together: morning and evening routines, eating, dressing, hair, makeup, going to bed. But luckily, the sisters know well how to compromise, for example when it comes to the choice of clothes. Very often, they face difficulties because they are not experiencing hunger or sleepiness at the same time, but they can adjust to each other's wishes.
6. The upbringing of Hensel twins
The unusual sisters were raised by their loving parents, who always treated them as separate individuals, and there was no difference from regular children in their upbringing. They had quite a typical childhood. The girls also had a younger brother and sister, and their parents always raised both them and their siblings to be good people. Although they were very supportive of their children, they also knew when to discipline them. It was mostly all the support the twins received from their parents that contributed to the fantastic willpower and strength of the girls.
Both Abby and Brittany are very grateful to their family for helping them on every step of their way. They even stated that one day, they are hoping to date someone, start a family with them and have children of their own.
7. Abby and Brittany education
In 2008, Brittany and Abby graduated from high school and continued their education at Bethel University, which is a higher education institution in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Both girls decided to become teachers and chose education as their major. Even though they considered to focus on other subjects, they felt overwhelmed by the number of extra tasks and coursework.
The college years were the first time when Abby and Brittany had to live on their own away from parents. It was especially challenging for them, but the girls could rely on each other in this new beginning. They experienced the same life as many other college students and enjoyed their independence without family around. Abby and Brittany made new friends, went to parties and studied hard to graduate. The girls dealt with stress caused by studying differently: Abby drank a lot of coffee when she was tired after long sleepless nights, while for Brittany coffee was damaging since it caused her irregular heartbeat and other issues.
After four years of fantastic study experience, in 2012, the Hensel twins exceeded everyone's expectations and graduated from university. Each sister got her own Bachelor of Arts degree in education.
Right after graduation, the girls decided to experience life to the fullest and went travelling to Europe with their friends. They visited Italy and Great Britain, in particular, Venice, Rome and London. Abby and Brittany each had their own passport, but they managed to save some money when it came to the plane ticket, as they only needed one. Though, when the twins go to see the movies, they always buy two tickets.
8. The professional life of Abigail and Brittany Hensel
After completing their university education, the Hensel twins had to search for a job. Thankfully, they did not have any disagreements in their future profession choice: both Abby and Brittany wanted to teach children. Even throughout their college years, they had some teaching experience with fourth-grade students. The girls were truly inspired by the opportunity of passing knowledge to children and changing the world for better.
The mother of the twins fully supported the dream of her daughters, and she was especially happy to know that they have the goal that they can make come true together. She recalled how one of the girls wanted to be a pilot while the other wanted to become a dentist when they were five years old, and thankfully these dreams were short-lived. According to their mom, they always had an exceptional understanding with kids. Even though the initial interest that kids showed in them might have been out of curiosity, later they were still drawn to these two.
Brittany and Abby decided to teach mathematics to the kids of fourth and fifth grade. At first, they took up a part-time position to get some experience and transition into the world of teaching. However, in October 2017, the sisters managed to get a full-time job. They now teach the youngsters at the Mounds View Elementary School. The twins are thrilled to work together, because this way they can do a lot of things at once, such as answering questions from children, keeping an eye on misbehaving students, and giving assignments to the class.
The principal of the school, Mr Good, gave a very positive commentary on Abby and Brittany and said that they were indeed born to work in the educational sphere. He praised them for being the exact people that were needed for the job. According to his words, there have been 175 applicants for this position, but as soon as the interviewers met the Hensel twins, it became apparent that they have to be hired. He said that when the interview was over, the girls left the room, and before he even managed to relax in his chair, one of his assistants told him to offer them this job immediately.
Abby and Brittany were incredibly happy to receive this offer from the elementary school and quickly accepted it. After signing the contract, they decided to split their salary in half, so that each of them gets her own money. They also thought about asking for a raise after becoming more experienced teachers, because after all, they are two people who can do twice more work.
The new boss of the twins admitted that it was something unique and special to employ the conjoined twins, and in a way, it was an "uncharted territory" for him and the staff. However, he helped Abby and Brittany to settle into the working process as much as he could. In his opinion, even if anyone would be surprised by the unusual appearance of the twins, all the doubts would go away if this person sat down and talked to them.
Moving further in their career made Abby and Brittany focus on helping other people. Even though they became popular in recent years due to their TV show, lately they decided to step out of the spotlight because they feel truly responsible for teaching young children.
9. Abigail & Brittany Hensel media appearances
In 1996, when the exceptional twin girls were only six years old, they made an appearance at Oprah Winfrey show twice. They also made the cover of the magazine "Life", where their photo was captioned as "One Body, Two Souls", and the article about them described their daily life. The same magazine published another story about them two years later, in 1998. The extraordinary sisters attracted the media attention and got their own TV documentary in 2002, called "Joined for Life", which was produced by the Advanced Medical Productions and showed at the Discovery Health Channel. One year later, in 2003, the follow-up to this documentary was released. It got the title "Joined at Birth". The famous Time magazine also published a story about the twins.
The girls continued getting documentaries about them done: they got one at the ABC TV channel. They appeared on the UK television in 2005, becoming a part of "Extraordinary People" series. In 2006, they also had another documentary made for them, which was for the special occasion of their 16th birthday. It was a spin-off of "Joined for Life", called "Abby and Brittany turn 16". The documentary highlighted their adolescent years, social life, studies, and various other activities they did throughout this time, such as learning how to drive and getting their license.
Except that, in 2012 the twins launched their own reality show, which was titled "Abby & Brittany". This show was directed by Beth Glover and had Bill Hayes and Kirk Streb as executive producers. The premiere of "Abby & Brittany" took place in August 2012 on the TLC channel. Mostly, the show demonstrated the graduation of the twins from Bethel University, searching for a job, and the time they spent travelling in Europe. It lasted for one season and had eight episodes, starting with the celebration of their 22nd birthday and ending with their preparations for a job, as well as moving into a new house of their own. BBC also showed a documentary about them, where the period between completing their education and starting a job as teachers was pictured.
Even though the sisters were used to being in a spotlight since their young years, they decided to step down for a while and focus on their private life and career. Abby and Brittany explained such decision as being tired of the cameras and interviews. The girls are completely fine with being conjoined twins and do not mind their unusual condition, but they dislike being treated as a spectacle. Brittany and Abby confessed that sometimes people stare at them or start taking pictures of them in the street without their consent, and while they acknowledge their uniqueness and the fact that people might be curious about them, they do not enjoy such treatment.
10. What is Abby and Brittany's life like today?
In 2018, Abby and Brittany celebrated their 28th birthday. Obviously, as two different people, each sister gets her own birthday cake. Every year, they are grateful for having one more amazing and eventful year in their life. The twins were always raised with the belief that they could do anything, and they have lived to this expectation.
The mother of the twins stated that she wanted Abby and Brittany to be viewed as two separate, individual people with their own fears, hopes and dreams. Today, they are keeping their life private, so there are fewer updates on them, but they are still successfully teaching children at school and spending time with family and friends. They are happy, and this is all that matters.
The story of Abby and Brittany Hensel, the famous conjoined twins who learned to live in balance and harmony with each other, is truly inspiring. It shows you that you can do anything, as long as you have enough motivation and determination. We believe that these extraordinary twins will continue living a contented life and sharing their incredible story with the world.
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