Conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel have become household names ever since they let the media into their unique lives. While the twins share the same body, they have several organs that are separate, including:
- Spinal cord
Conjoined twins are incredibly rare, which is why Abby and Brittany’s condition has generated so much curiosity and been featured by numerous media outlets.
Here are some interesting things you might not have known about Abby and Brittany Hensel.
1. Abby and Brittany are one of the rarest set of dicephalus twins in the world. Conjoined twins only occur once every 200,000 live births, and their survival is anything but assured, which makes these two quite the miracle.
2. Each twin controls half of their body, operating one of the arms and one of the legs. Each are able to eat and write separately and simultaneously, however, certain activities like running and swimming must be coordinated.
3. Abby and Brittany both have their driving license, but had to take the written and driving test twice, one for each twin. While driving, Abby controls everything right of the driver’s seat and Brittany on the left.
4. The two have very different personalities and interests. Abby loves mathematics and Brittany loves to write.
5. Abby and Brittany have stated that they don’t mind being conjoined twins, but they hate when they get gawked at by strangers or when people take pictures of them uninvitingly.
6. The Hensel twins became a worldwide phenomenon when they appeared on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ and on the cover of Life magazine at just 6-years-old.
7. The two initially considered pursuing different concentrations at university, but ended up attending Bethel University and majoring in education. The twins graduated with Bachelor of Arts degrees in 2012.
8. Despite sharing the same body, Abby and Brittany have always been treated as separate identities. The two will even buy separate movie tickets when they go to the cinema.
9. Abby and Brittany are two separate people meaning that one can get sick while the other remains healthy. Brittany has previously suffered from pneumonia and Brittany wasn’t affected by the illness.
10. Only four known sets of conjoined twins who share an undivided torso and two legs have ever survived into adulthood. Most conjoined twins have congenital heart defects or organ anomalies, but luckily nothing has shown up for Abby and Brittany.
11. Due to Abby and Brittany having differing tastes, clothing has been made special for them to show their unique styles. Sometimes they will wear different shoes or have leggins with different colors on each leg.
12. Brittany and Abby have different distinctive walks. Brittany tends to stand and walk on her tip-toes while Abby keeps her feet planted to the ground.
13. Abby and Brittany’s parents were given the option to separate the twins at birth. However, they immediately rejected the idea when doctors told them it was likely that both would not survive the operation.
14. The twins were born with a third rudimentary arm between the bases of their necks, which was combined parts of Abby’s left arm and Brittany’s right arm. However, the arm was removed, leaving the shoulder blade.
15. The twins previously said in interviews for the Discovery Channel that they hoped to eventually date, get married, and have children.
16. Abby and Brittany have let the world into their lives multiple times including a docuseries that followed their graduation from Bethel University, their job search, and travels in Europe. The two have stated that they hoped that by providing information about themselves, they would be able to lead otherwise fairly typical social lives.
17. Abby and Brittany have successfully earned two teaching licences, but are aware they will only get one salary because they would be technically doing the work of one person.
18. At 5ft 2in, Abby is slightly taller than her sister Brittany who is 4ft 10 inch.
19. Brittany prefers to wear more neutral colors while Abby likes to embrace more bright and vibrant looks.
20. Abby is often seen as the ‘outspoken’ sister and is much more of a homebody where Brittany likes prefers to go out.
21. The twins respond to coffee differently, Brittany’s heart rate increases after a few cups while Abby is not affected.
22. Brittany and Abby have different body temperatures with Abby saying she always gets warmer a lot faster.
23. Despite only needing one ticket to fly, the twins have separate passports.
24. One intention the twins have as teachers is not only to be role models academically, but to share their positive attitude of life and how they overcome challenges.
25. While the twins are incredibly in sync now that they are adults, they admitted that learning to work in tandem and harmony was a major challenge growing up.
26. The two will often make sacrifices for their separate interests, but some of the hobbies they both enjoy are bowling and volleyball.
27. Brittany and Abby have two younger siblings Cody and Morgan.
28. A rumor circulated in 2009 by XM radio that Brittany was engaged, the two have since stated that it wasn’t true and that they thought it was funny.
29. This diagram shows how Brittany and Abby’s bodies are conjoined, which is also why they can’t be separated.
30. The twins had a scare when they were 12-years-old, they had to undergo a major operation because their rib cages were fused together. Luckily, they were able to stop their lungs from running out of air and were fit to live life to the full.
31. The life saving operation the twins had when they were 12 actually added two inches to their height.
32. There is great interest from the medical profession about Brittany and Abby, but the family have always refused any non-essential tests to be carried out on them.
33. About 70% of conjoined twins are female.
34. Conjoined twins are genetically identical, which means they are always the same gender.
35. Although success rates have improved, surgically separating conjoined twins is still incredible rare. Daily Journal states that since 1950, at least one twin has survived separation about 75 percent of the time.
36. The term Siamese twins used to be associated with conjoined twins, but the term is no longer appropriate for the condition is not limited to any race or ethnic group.
37. There are almost a dozen different types of conjoined twins, but the most rare is craniopagus, which means conjoined at the head. Only 2% of conjoined twins are joined this way.
38. Roughly 200 pairs of conjoined twins are born alive each year, but half die before their first birthday.
39. The term ‘Siamese twins’ originated with conjoined twins Eng and CHang Bunker who were born in Siam (now Thailand) in 1811. The twins made quite a name for themselves as they appeared in traveling exhibitions, lived to age 63, and both married and fathered a total of 21 children between them.
40. Scientists believe that conjoined twins are developed from a single fertilized egg that fails to separate completely as it divides.