You may have heard of Abby and Brittany Hensel before, either on Oprah, in Time Magazine, or on their TLC TV special. For those who don't know about these two unusual girls, here's a little of the backstory: Abigail and Brittany Hensel are a set of conjoined twins that share a body but have two separate heads. They are completely different people; they simply happen to share a torso, arms, and legs. This, naturally, raises a lot of questions, and the Hensel Twins have many times offered to answer some of the more common questions the public is dying to know.
Of course, there are some questions that are awkward to ask or maybe just don't have easy answers. How do conjoined twins live together, and what do they do for a job? How do they eat, use the bathroom, or even pursue romance? Contained here are the answers to some of these questions, and many of them are surprisingly simple.
So, if you're curious about these two young ladies, often mistaken as one person, read on. Abby and Brittany are definitely miraculous in more ways than you might imagine.
It's a Miracle They've Survived Into Adulthood
Conjoined twins are very rare. It is estimated that only one in every 200,000 births is that of a conjoined twin, and the results of these births are rarely happy ones. Less than 1% of conjoined twins survive infancy. There may be fewer than 12 sets of conjoined twins alive today, and Abby and Brittany are one such set.
In fact, they're one of the only ones currently in adulthood. Even if conjoined twins live through their childhood years, growth of the skeletal structure and other health problems usually lead to low odds of survival. With those odds, it's miraculous they're so healthy and happy.
Their Internal Organs Are A Unique Mix Of Shared And Individual
Interestingly enough, modern medicine is very aware of how Abby and Brittany's insides work, and we know in what way they are joined. Between them, the twins have:
Two spines merging at the coccyx, one broad ribcage with two highly fused sternums and traces of bridging ribs, two breasts, two hearts in a shared circulatory system, four lungs with the medial lungs moderately fused, one diaphragm, two stomachs, two gallbladders, one liver, one small and large intestine, three kidneys, one bladder, and one set of reproductive organs. In other words, there are definitely two people inside that body, but they share some rather vital organs, which means they cannot be separated.
Now, you might be wondering, since they share a reproductive system, how do they engage in intercourse? Would they be able to have children? Though it hasn't happened yet (that they've told us), the girls have expressed a desire to start a family and get married, so this issue may be something they have to figure out someday.
They Originally Had Three Arms
Although it is very apparent now that Abby and Brittany have two arms, they had three when they were still infants. Unfortunately, this third arm was only rudimentary and useless, so it was more of a hindrance than a help in that it made moving the shoulder blades difficult. For this reason, Abby and Brittany's parents had the extra arm removed when they were very little. In general, Abby and Brittany's parents do not allow for non-vital medical examinations, procedures, or studies, but this, and one major surgery to correct growth in their ribcage, were both done as the girls grew up. Nowadays for the girls, however, major surgeries seem to be a thing of the past.
They Both Only Control One Half Of Their Body
When Abby and Brittany walk, move, or do daily activities, it's actually more difficult than you might imagine. You see, Brittany controls the left side of the body, while Abby controls the right. That means each girl has to control one leg and one arm all on their own. The twins had to learn to crawl, walk, run, write, and get dressed in tandem, so even standing up takes total coordination.
That's not to say the girls are not very dexterous! They like to play sports, such as volleyball and bowling, and they can both write, swim, and dance together like any other person might. They even have a knack for music.