Throughout history, conjoined twins have fascinated people around the world. Mainly, people want to know what it's like to be a conjoined twin. It is impossible to imagine what it is like living day in, day out, attached to your sibling. Most of us can barely stand being around our brothers and sisters for more than a couple days; how do these extraordinary individuals live their entire lives literally attached at the hip... or waist, or head?
While conjoined twins were introduced to pop culture as "freaks," conjoined twins today are able to lead relatively normal lives. Here is everything you need to know about what it is like living attached to a sibling, and what that can mean for someone's physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
The Term 'Siamese Twins' Comes From The Real-Life Chang Brothers
The term “Siamese twins” is no longer considered an acceptable way to describe conjoined twins. But, for nearly two hundred years, it was the go-to phrase. The term traces back to a couple of the most famous conjoined twins in history. Eng and Chang Bunker were born in Siam (present-day Thailand) in 1811. They were attached at the chest and they shared a liver. The term Siamese twins is a reference to the Chang brothers, who rose to fame as a side-show attraction in an international traveling circus. The twins later settled in the states and became wealthy businessmen.
There Are Many Different Types Of Conjoined Twins
There are over a dozen classifications for conjoined twins based on where the siblings are connected. The most common form of conjoined twins are Thoracopagus twins. These twins are joined in the upper chest and they share a heart, which makes separation nearly impossible. These twins make up 40 percent of all conjoined twins.
The second most common type is Omalaphagus. They are connected from the middle of the chest to the waist, and they do not share a heart. However, they can share a liver and even genitalia. They make up about 33 percent of all conjoined twins.
Craniopagus is the rarest type of conjoined twin. Craniopagus twins are conjoined at the head. Out of all conjoined twins, only two percent are born with this condition.
These Conjoined Twins Can See Out Of Each Other's Eyes
While conjoined twins may share some organs, they can rarely feel what the other twin is feeling. In the case of sharing a stomach, they may both experience the effects of what the other ate, but that’s about as far as it goes. But there are two very special Craniopagus twins who can actually read each other’s minds and even see through each other’s eyes. Tatiana and Krista Hogan of Canada are attached at the head in a way that makes separation impossible.
Doctors have determined that they are attached at the thalamus through a thalamic bridge. The thalamus is part of the brain that transits sensory information, regulates consciousness, and controls motor function. Tatiana can see out of both of Krista’s eyes, while Krista can only see out of one of Tatiana’s eyes. The girls also said that they can carry on conversations in their head.
Brittany And Abby Hensel Each Control One Side Of Their Body
When you’re physically attached to your sibling, mobility can certainly be a problem. But Abby and Brittany Hensel, a set of Omalaphagus twins, get around just fine. The twins appear to share one body, but they have their own heart, spine, lungs, and stomach. They control the limbs on their side of the body and they’ve gotten very good at coordinating. So good, in fact, that they can drive a car. They have two separate licenses. Abby controls everything on the right, while Brittany controls everything on the left.