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Abby and Brittany Hensel

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Updated August 28, 2012

Twins' Names:

Abigail Loraine Hensel and Brittany Lee Hensel; known as "Abby and Brittany"

Birthdate:

March 7, 1990

Hometown:

New Germany, Minnesota

Type of Conjoined Twins:

Dicephalic parapagus. The twins are joined from the neck down, giving the appearance of two heads on a single body.

Connection Details:

Abby and Brittany Hensel are parapagus, sharing a symmetrical lateral connection of the lower half of the body. Their connection starts at the neck. There are two arms and two legs. A third arm was present at birth, but was removed. While some organs are shared, others are fused, and still others are individual. They have separate hearts. There are two sets of lungs, although one portion is fused. Two spines join at the pelvis, but one rib cage encases the organs. There are two stomachs and two gall bladders. There are three kidneys. The circulatory system is partially shared. Lower organs, including the intestines, bladder and reproductive system, are shared.

All About Abby and Brittany Hensel:

Abby and Brittany Hensel are the only known living dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins, and only one of four known sets of dicephalus twins in history to survive infancy. Their conjoined status was a surprise at birth, and they were not expected to survive. Given a 1 in 30 million chance of surviving the first 24 hours, they not only survived, but have thrived, leading a relatively normal life, graduating from high school and college, and starring in their own reality television in 2012.

Their mother, Mary, is a registered nurse, and their dad, Mike, is a carpenter and landscaper. The family also includes a younger brother and sister. The twins' parents raised them out of the media spotlight, and with a normal lifestyle in Minnesota, where the twins attended school, played sports, and passed their driving test (the girls took the test twice so that each girl could earn her license).

Mary and Mike never considered surgical separation of the twins. They feared that an attempt would compromise both girls, and leave any survivor with a diminished quality of life. The girls have remained remarkably healthy, free from heart defects and other conditions that plague conjoined twins due to their shared organs. Surgery at the age of twelve corrected scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and expanded their chest cavity to reduce impairment of their lungs.

Over the years, documentaries have given a glimpse into the girls' lives. Each girl controls one side of the body, requiring an extreme amount of coordination to manage their day-to-day routines. However, the girls' brains work together in an amazing way to control their shared body, allowing them to enjoy an active life. In 2012, the twins debuted in their own reality tv show. Abby & Brittany airs on TLC, the network that is home to several other programs featuring multiples, such as Kate + 8, Make Room for Multiples, 19 Kids and Counting, and Little People, Big World. The show will feature the twins as they graduate from college and travel to Europe.

In addition, the twins made appearances on The Oprah Show in 1996 and were featured in Life and Time magazines. They were the subject of three documentaries:

• Joined for Life (2003)
• Extraordinary People: The Twins Who Share a Body (2007)
• Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany Turn 16 (2008)

Read more:

• An Extraordinary Bond (2006)
• Extraordinary Conjoined Twins (2012)
Two Girls, Two Heads, Two Souls In One Body
• Conjoined Twins Abby & Brittany: Normal -- Whatever That Is

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