Abby and Brittany Hensel, who are not related, are two very different girls who happen to share the same body. The conjoined twins have faced every difficulty in life with the same positive attitude they’ve maintained from the moment of their birth. A doctor at their birth told their parents that he didn’t think they would make it to morning. The twins have matured greatly since their TLC days; they are now adults who have left home and entered the workforce. Our only concern is what the future holds for such high achievers. Despite dire odds, they miraculously made it through birth and have consistently surpassed expectations ever since.
Abby and Brittany Hensel rose to international fame after appearing on the reality show Abby & Brittany, which aired on TLC in 2012. The show gave a positive representation of the conjoined twins, demonstrating that despite their outward differences, they are just like any other teenager. Wow, look at them now…
On The Spotlight
The Hensel twins have been in the spotlight ever since the mid-1990s, long before TLC’s Abby & Brittany premiered in August of 2012.
In 1996, they first gained widespread attention after appearing on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show; shortly after, they were featured on the cover of Life magazine with the caption “One Body, Two Souls.” Titled “The Hensels’ Summer,” the piece provided a glimpse into the twins’ daily lives and was followed up on only two years later.
Invited By Oprah
Even though the twins themselves may have forgotten Oprah Winfrey’s invitation to appear on her show more than two decades ago, she is still widely remembered and celebrated.
The first time the conjoined twins were seen by such a large audience was on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Their story resonated with millions of Americans across the country and ushered in a new era of success and popularity for the girls.
The first time the twins were shown on television was in the 2002 documentary Joined For Life, which was produced by Advanced Medical Productions and aired on the Discovery Health Channel.
An article about the twins, now 11 years old, was published in 2003 by Life and Time. The twins first gained widespread attention after they were featured in a 2006 TLC special titled Joined For Life: Abby and Brittany Turn 16 and again in 2007 on the UK series Extraordinary People.
Having Each Other Since Birth
Patty, an RN, and Mike Hensel, a carpenter and landscaper, had Abby and Brittany in Carver County, Minnesota. They were raised in New Germany, Minnesota, along with a younger brother and sister.
They had a difficult and trying upbringing. The conjoined twins struggled mightily to master the rudimentary skills that most kids their age take for granted. The fact that each twin controls only one half of the body made it difficult for them to master even the most basic motor skills, such as crawling.
Beautiful twins shared a single body when they were born on March 7, 1990. There was only one fetus detected during Patty Hensel’s pregnancy.
So it was a huge shock to both of Patty’s parents when she gave birth to Dicephalus’s conjoined twins. Due to the extreme closeness of their bodies, the twins had a one in thirty million chance of surviving the first twenty-four hours, and the possibility of separation was quickly eliminated.
The Twin’s Story
There is no denying the incredible nature of Abby and Brittany’s story. From an early age on, it was obvious that physically separating them would be an impossible medical feat.
Despite the Hensel twins’ inability to have a successful operation, other sets of conjoined twins have had much more luck. Many cases of twins being split up have resulted in the death of one of them, but there are also many examples of success where both siblings have made it.
Kendra & Maliyah
A few years ago, conjoined twins Kendra and Maliyah Herrin underwent successful surgical separation, making it one of the most famous successful separations in recent memory.
It was the first time a pair of conjoined twins who shared a kidney were successfully separated. Kendra kept the kidney they’d once shared so that the operation could be completed, and Maliyah went on dialysis until she got a kidney from a donor. Obviously, this isn’t the ending Abby and Brittany had hoped for.
They Shared Organs
The second set of conjoined twins, this time from the Dominican Republic, also defied the odds and were successfully separated.
Considering how tightly their lower chests and abdomens were joined, Maria and Teresa Tapia’s chances of getting apart were incredibly low. Since they were already sharing a pancreas and a portion of their small intestine, this made them omphalopagus. Still, the twins were successfully separated when they were only a year and a half old.
Hensel Twin’s Case
Abby and Brittany Hensel’s parents made a point of encouraging each of their daughters to find their own path in life and develop a unique identity.
They’ve encouraged the siblings to try something new, whether it’s a sport or an instrument. The twins’ parents have had a tough time with discipline because it’s not really fair to punish both sisters for the same transgression.
How It Happened
There are two possible origins of twins. Either a woman produces one egg that divides into two after fertilization, or she releases two eggs at once.
When a woman ovulates a single egg that does not split in two after fertilization, the result is a set of conjoined twins. During the first weeks after conception, the embryo grows and develops and begins to divide into identical twins; however, this process is abruptly stopped, leaving a partially divided egg that develops into a conjoined fetus.
Below The Waistline
Abby and Brittany each have their own heart and lungs but share a pelvis, esophagus, three kidneys, one liver, and half of their nervous and circulatory systems.
Everything below the waistline is shared, including the reproductive system, the digestive tract, and the urinary system. Neither identical twin can feel anything on the other’s side of the body. Abby and Brittany both had three arms at birth, but doctors amputated one of them shortly after they were born.
Being Recognized In Public
For ten years after appearing on Oprah’s show at age six, the twins led relatively normal lives before TLC picked up their story in 2006.
Since that day, the twins have become reasonably well-known and are frequently recognized in public. One of the twins’ friends said, “Everywhere they go, they get stares.” The twins enjoy hearing from their fans, and they are grateful for any warm greetings they receive, but they are not fond of people staring or taking pictures of them without first asking.
The Importance Of Teamwork
Conjoined twins Abby and Brittany have the extremely rare condition of dicephalic parapagus. Although they share a single body, each twin has its own head and neck. One-half of the conjoined body belongs to each twin.
Therefore, even the most fundamental physical activities, such as walking, running, riding a bicycle, or swimming, require well-rehearsed collaborative efforts. The identical have always been eager to take on new challenges, and they now lead completely independent but collaborative lives.
The Hilton Sisters
A generation before Abby and Brittany, there were the Hilton sisters, Daisy and Violet. These conjoined British twins were born in 1908.
Much like the Hensel twins, these sisters were inseparable and lived a life of constant public attention as they toured Europe and the United States as children and later performed in vaudeville and American burlesque. In later years, the two sisters married men widely assumed to be gay for publicity purposes. The twins passed away a few months before turning 61.
It’s A Miracle
Conjoined twins are extremely rare, occurring in only one in every 200,000 births. There is only a 5-25% chance of survival after birth.
The Hensel sisters are the most extreme case of conjoined twins, which occurs when only one egg divides after fertilization. It was predicted that neither Abby nor Brittany would live past the first day of their birth. Here they are, 27 years later, thriving and proving how extraordinary they really are in every way.
Some Facts To Know
35 percent of conjoined twins don’t make it past the first 24 hours after birth, and 40-60 percent are stillborn.
There is no such thing as a set of conjoined twins; rather, both individuals are of the same gender and, for some reason, females have a much higher survival rate. In Biddenton, County of Kent, England, one of the earliest cases of conjoined twins was discovered in the year 1100. Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, who were born conjoined, both passed away at the age of 34.
One Gets Sick
Abby and Brittany Hensel may share some internal organs, but they will get sick at different times. For instance, when they were kids, Brittany and Abby were both perfectly healthy, but Brittany had a terrible case of pneumonia.
When Brittany wasn’t feeling well enough to take her medication, Abby tried to save her by giving it to herself. The bond between them is that of two sisters. Stomachaches, however, are always experienced in the opposite twin’s stomach.
One Body, Two Walks
The conjoined twins may have shared a body for 27 years, but they are still very much their own people, with their own unique likes and dislikes when it comes to things like food, clothing, and sleep.
One Body, Two Walks
Additionally, each twin walks differently from the other, sometimes with a slight limp. While Abby has a more flat gait, Brittany tends to walk a little bit more on her toes. Brittany’s calf muscle is a little bit more developed and muscular as a result of this distinction.
Sharing a body with a sibling is an added challenge to growing up with them. Despite their very different personalities, Abby and Brittany have learned to coexist peacefully and accomplish their daily tasks together.
Abby’s mother has described her as lively and someone who enjoys taking charge, even going so far as to say that as a child Abby wanted “to rule the whole house.” While Brittany is easygoing, quiet, and loves socializing, Abby prefers to stay in and is known for her forthright nature.
Two Styles In One
It’s to be expected that people with different personalities would also have different tastes in clothing. Abby and Brittany Hensel have figured out a lot of different ways to dress that reflect their own unique styles and tastes.
The unique hand-made tops the twins wear feature two different necklines, one for each of their individual tastes. Girls will often sport pants with contrasting leg colors or even wear shoes of contrasting colors on each foot. These two have a lot of originality.
Give And Take
Abby and Brittany have found that adjusting to their very different eating habits has been a significant challenge. Getting both sisters to feel full requires some give and take, such as when one twin wants to eat before the other is hungry.
One twin will use the fork and the other will use the knife as they eat from separate plates. One twin will start eating, and the other will finish a bite before moving on.
It took the Hensel twins a long time to perfect what looks like a well-choreographed routine now. The girls had a hard time as infants and toddlers learning to crawl and walk.
The Hensel twins took a little longer than average toddlers to learn to coordinate their actions so that they happened at the same time. A few years have passed since then, and the twins are now capable of swimming, riding bikes, and driving cars, among other advanced skills.
It’s Like Two Athletes
Abby and Brittany have defied all expectations by attempting activities that are challenging for even fully abled people, such as clapping, crawling, and walking.
Bowling, cycling, softball, and swimming are just some of the many sports that the twins enjoy. They even played volleyball for their high school. They were once praised in an interview by a friend who said they never gave up and didn’t want any special treatment.
Super Talented Twins
The siblings’ impressive list of skills now includes musical ability in addition to athletic prowess. Abby and Brittany’s incredible piano playing has baffled both their loved ones and their doctors.
Abby and Brittany’s unique abilities are nothing short of miraculous, given that most conjoined twins don’t make it to adulthood. Abby plays the right-hand part and Brittany the left, allowing the girls to showcase their impeccable timing and coordination. Do the women of today have any limitations?
Separating The Twins
Only twice have people proposed splitting up the conjoined twins. The first time was right after the birth of the twins, and it was quickly disregarded by the new parents. It was not worth taking the chance that one of the twins would be killed or severely disabled during the separation procedure.
The second time was when Brittany was a child and she got pneumonia; Abby was bedridden and bored and said she wanted a divorce. Abby consoled Brittany’s heartbreaking sobs by promising they would be together forever.
The twins’ good health over their lifetimes comes despite a number of surgeries and other medical issues. They had a third arm amputated shortly after birth, and they’ve had additional procedures to correct scoliosis, increase the size of their chest, and stop the growth of their spine.
Although only four sets of conjoined twins like the Hensels have lived to adulthood, doctors are hopeful because no congenital heart defects or organ abnormalities have been found.
The Twins At 16
Watching the Hensel twins in the 2006 TLC special Joined for Life: Abby and Brittany Turn 16 was a window into how these young women dealt with the pressures of high school life and overcame the typical obstacles faced by adolescents.
The twins’ first attempt at passing a driver’s license test was one of the most significant events depicted on the show. While the twins do indeed drive as a team, with each twin controlling the wheel with one arm, they have two separate licenses because they each took the test independently.
Since Abby and Brittany are twins, you might assume that they are unable to drive because neither of them can feel pain or temperature on their left sides.
However, this perception is far from the truth. The girls said in unison, “I think we’re good drivers,” in a clip from the 2012 reality show. When they get on the road, Abby handles the gas and Brittany handles the turn signals. The girls take turns steering.
Maintaining The Right Attitude
Abby and Britney have made a sincere effort to lead ordinary lives, carrying positive energy and an optimistic outlook with them wherever they go.
The twins went to Bethel University in St. Paul together, where they also studied and made a large group of friends who all adore them for their unfailing optimism. Their positive outlook is contagious, and it will surely follow them wherever they go in life.
Getting along with a sibling can be challenging, especially in the early and middle years. Almost every sibling pair goes through periods of mutual intolerance lasting a few days or weeks.
Happily for everyone involved, the Hensel twins almost never actually fight each other. A quote from Abby in an interview: “When it comes to decisions, there are compromises we have to make… We’d like to find a solution that will make everyone satisfied.”
Guidance Of Parents
The Hensel twins are a great case of children who, despite growing up in what we would consider being very abnormal circumstances due to their medical condition and the constant presence of the media, have gone on to lead very normal and satisfying life as they enter early adulthood.
Their parents deserve all the credit because they worked hard to instill good values in them and encouraged them to follow their passions. When it comes to their daughters, Abby and Brittany, their parents have always had faith in them, but they never expected them to achieve such great success.
Learning How To Complement Each Other
Both of the Hensel girls, Abby and Brittany, have always been top students. They had a head start on learning how to complement each other and work together by working out their individual strengths and weaknesses early on.
Abby, for one, has always been drawn to numbers, while Brittany prefers the written word. Perhaps the most remarkable of the girls’ talents is their ability to type out emails and assignments without verbal communication, based solely on their ability to anticipate each other’s feelings. Though the twins insist they cannot read each other’s minds, we have our doubts.
Making Huge Decisions
Brittany and Abby could have taken the easy way out by not going to college at all or by taking only online classes, but they have never been the type to take the path of least resistance.
Why should higher education be any different when they have spent their entire lives defying expectations and embracing difficulty? Whatever the cost, they were determined to attend college and would push through the rigorous coursework and way of life that it entailed.
Going To College
Our favorite conjoined twins, having completed their high school education in 2008, continued on to Bethel University, where they both pursued degrees in education.
The girls wanted to choose different tracks within the major at first, but their school wouldn’t let them. Both Abby and Brittany put in a lot of effort during their time at university, and in 2012 they were rewarded with college diplomas. These two sisters are so smart and talented that they consistently defy expectations. What will happen to them next?
Traveling The World
The women and their college pals took a trip to Europe after graduation. As a result of their intricate medical background, traveling is not a breeze. All medications and prescriptions that might be needed must be brought along. in terms of the work, they put forth. These two sisters are so smart and talented that they consistently defy expectations. What will happen to them next?
Although they each had their own passports, the girls shared a single airline ticket. The sisters experienced firsthand the sometimes rude reactions of tourists when they explained that they were conjoined twins, a skill they honed while sightseeing and traveling. Even if it’s annoying, the girls know better than to let it ruin their day.
Abby and Brittany returned from their trip to Europe and immediately dove into the preparations for their upcoming move out of their parents’ home, a major life change for any teen girl.
The twins keep proving that they’re ready to take on the world as fully grown adults. The girls know that life away from home won’t be easy, but they’re ready to take on any challenge and will have each other’s backs no matter what.
Abby and Brittany reached a major milestone when they moved into their first apartment together, but the transition was not without its challenges.
To begin with, moving is a physically demanding task for anyone, much less a set of conjoined twins. Additionally, this was the first time in their lives that the girls would be living independently, without the guidance of their doting parents.
Both Abby and Brittany have joined the Mounds View Public Schools as fifth-grade educators. In the classroom, as in life, they must work together to succeed. When teaching, the twins feed off of one another’s energy and enthusiasm.
Teachers who are joined at the hip have the distinct advantage of being able to respond to two students’ inquiries simultaneously. In addition, they have an extra set of eyes keeping an eye out for any misbehavior that could derail their class from being a positive learning environment. No one could possibly outwit this pair.
It Was A Challenge
Abby and Brittany may find it challenging to teach elementary school. Conjoined twins are an uncommon sight, especially for children. As a result, parents worried that their children might act out in front of the girls.
When the twins showed up at school, they hosted a Q&A session so that students could ask them anything. Girls have been teaching since the open forum and there have been no problems. The girls set a positive tone for the students by showing them that they can succeed no matter what obstacles they face.
Separate Credentials But One Paycheck
One thing the conjoined twins hope to change in the future is their financial situation. The girls have two different degrees between them and two different teaching credentials.
But since they can only handle one class at a time, they are only paid the equivalent of a single teacher’s salary. The twins plan to renegotiate their contract after they’ve had some professional experience under their belts for a while longer. However, the girls are happy right now because they are fulfilling a lifelong ambition and making a positive impact.
The Hensel twins have been subjected to a barrage of insensitive questions, speculations, and rumors ever since they announced their intention to settle down, get married, and have children, all of which are entirely anatomically possible. In 2010, a hoax about Brittany’s alleged engagement went viral on the web.
The twins dismissed the rumor, calling it “a dumb joke,” when asked about it. The twins are not planning on getting married anytime soon, but you never know what the future holds.