After 22 years, Inside the life of conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel

After 22 years, Inside the life of conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel 1

Siamese twins


Wow! Who would’ve thought?

Siamese twins Abby and Brittany Hensel became worldwide news after being born in 1990. It’s not often you hear about healthy Siamese twins being born. But 22 years later, the twins make an announcement that shocks the world.


Back in the limelight

After their birth, the Siamese twins constantly surprised everyone. Because the two are stuck together, they did everything in their own unique way. From daily tasks to other successes. Over two decades after their birth, this shocking news put them back in the spotlight.

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Rare way

Abby and Brittany Hensel were born on March 7th, 1990 in Carver County, Minnesota. When the sisters were born, the doctors discovered that they were attached in an unbelievably rare way. They’re known as dicephalic paragabus twins which means they share one body.



Small chance of survival

The Hensel twins had an extremely low chance of surviving. Siamese twins are of course very rare; about 1 in 189,000 babies is a Siamese twin. And only 11% percent of this already small population is born dicephalic paragabus. The chance of Abby and Brittany being born was extremely small.



One thing that still baffles doctors is the anatomy of the twins. Their upper bodies are their own, meaning two stomachs, two hearts, and four longs. But they share one lower body, and only have one reproductive system, one large intestine and a shared liver.

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Other issues

Because of their unique anatomic make-up, the twins end up in a weird situation when they get sick. Abby can only experience uncomfortableness on the left side of her body. And Brittany gets unbelievable pains on her right side. If one of the sisters has stomach pains, the other sister has the same symptoms.




The two girls also have two different body temperatures. In their TLC reality show, Abby & Brittany, Brittany describes the split between their bodies as an imaginary red line through the middle. Brittany often feels warm and sweaty. But Abby doesn’t have a problem with it and in general feels totally fine.


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Working as a team

The twins are capable of moving all body parts. This means that each one controls one arm and one leg. The twins therefore had to work together even as babies to be able to crawl and get walking. The older they got, they learned to swim, run, brush their hair and even driving side by side.


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Driver’s license

The way they drive was shown on their reality show. Brittany explained that they both had to pass a driving test. “We have two driver’s licenses and when we got them, we both had to take the test – and we both passed,” she said.




Working well together

Each sister therefore controls their own half of their shared body. This means they have to work well together to be able to drive. Brittany added: “When we drive, Abby takes control of the gas and brakes. We both steer and I take control.” The sisters are confident driving because they find themselves to be good chauffeurs.




Not the same outfit

It’s still two sisters, with their own taste. So they know how to come to a compromise. In 2013, the twins told BBC that the two don’t always want to wear the same outfit. Abby: “We definitely have different styles. Brittany prefers neutral colors, pearls and that kind of stuff.”


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More colorful

Abby on the other hand has a flashier style. “I prefer wearing colorful clothes,” Abby adds. It’s not just clothes that set their taste apart. It’s also known that Abby is the more outspoken sister.



More of a home dweller

In addition, Abby’s confidence often helps her when choosing an outfit. The twins were therefore rarely seen in neutral colors. And yet Brittany claims to be the person who likes to be out and about and explore the world. Her sister, on the other hand, is more of a homebody.




Besides their taste in clothing and what they like to do in their free time, the twins also have other differences. For example, Brittany is afraid of heights and Abby is not. And while Brittany likes art, Abby is more interested in science.




Out of the spotlight

Both sisters have successfully built normal lives and they speak openly about it. But there are some things they’d rather keep out of the public eye. For example, relationships. This is why they’ve chosen to keep this part of their lives private.



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Abby and Brittany have no problem talking about their friendships and unbelievable experiences they’ve had together. The two have traveled the world, even with the unwanted attention they receive in other countries. And while they each have their own passport, they share one seat on the airplane.


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The biggest problem the Siamese twins face is when they land somewhere. They call this their biggest weakness. Abby and Brittany know by now how people react to them. But it never makes them feel good when random people take pictures of them. Thankfully the people they travel with and good friends always watch out for the twins.


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Good friend

A good friend of Abby and Brittany, Erin Junkans, told BBC about their friendship and how she protects them while on vacation. “I always want to be sure that they’re safe. I make sure people don’t take pictures and always watch out for how the twins react to how busy a place is,” Erin tells. But the twins can usually get on pretty well with the business.




Without fear

Erin follows with: “If they ever get overwhelmed we just have to go somewhere else.” But she’s always surprised by their ability to get through those situations and how easily they brush it off. “They don’t let fear control their lives, and this helps fulfill the dream that their mother Patty has always had for them,” Erin says.


Mother Patty

Their mom Patty was also interviewed by BBC. She told them honestly that she, like every other mother, just wants her kids to be happy and healthy. And she hopes they’ll be successful in whatever they choose to do. That’s why she’s curious to know what the twins plan on doing. Her, and the rest of the world too. Because many people have shown interest in the Siamese twin’s story.



Well known at a young age

The twins made a big impact with how they were born and their way of living. When Abby and Brittany were just six years old they did an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Around the same time, the twins were on the cover of Life magazine.




Joined for Life

In 2002, the twins were part of a documentary called Joined For Life. The series followed the lives of numerous Siamese twins. The documentary brought about their own show called Abby & Brittany. In an interview with BBC, they discussed the show and how their lives look.




Normal life

In the BBC interview Brittany admits that she wanted the world to see how they make their incredible situation work for them. Brittany: “We chose to make a show because we wanted to. And you get to see a bit of our normal daily life.” Abby and Brittany both think it’s important to show that.




More complicated

“People are going to say about the show: ‘Oh they do normal stuff, have normal lives with lots of friends.’ It’s very normal what we do. Our life isn’t any different from peoples’ who aren’t Siamese twins,” Abby explains. That being said, their special situation makes certain aspects of life a little bit more complicated. This was also shown in their reality show.


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The twins talk about their time at the Bethel University when they went to study abroad. There they had to start “all over again.” In the show they also talk about their search for their first job. This was extremely difficult because the girls have to have the same job.



Same plans

Thankfully, the twins both had a similar vision for the future and had gotten diplomas in teaching. And although the two had different ideas of what they wanted to specialize in, they realized extra courses wouldn’t work. In the end, Abby and Brittany decided that working in an elementary school would be the best option.




First job

In the show, Abby and Brittany share exciting news. In a clip from the show in 2012, they yell out in unison: “We have a job!” While describing their new job they were completely in sync. They finished each other’s sentenced and held their hands while talking.





The first job they got was a great match for the study they had done. “We’re math specialists for 4th and 5th grade so we have two math classes,” they explained. Their first job is parttime but they hope to be able to work fulltime eventually.




Professional career

Their mom Patty talked about their career development in the show. And to her it seems like the girls’ differences came together in the end. Abby and Brittany’s mother explains: “When they were five, I remember that one wanted to be a pilot and the other a dentist. But that didn’t last long.”




Talent with kids

But the twins’ mom knew that teaching was the right choice for her daughters. “They’ve always had a talent for connecting with children and they’ve always felt drawn to it,” she explains. “This may have started from their fascination with the twins but once their basic questions had been answered they were still drawn to Abby and Brittany.”



Mister Good

Even their new boss, Mr. Good, knew right away that the twins would be good teachers. 175 people applied for the job but he and his peers knew right away that the twins were the right people for the job.





During his appearance in the show Mr. Good describes what happened after their interview. “After the interview I said goodbye to them but before I could even sit down, one of my colleagues yelled: ‘Run after them! Give them the job!’”



Mr. Good admitted that it was the first time he had Siamese twins as employees. And while much needed to happen, he definitely wanted them to be on the team. He did everything he could to make it easier for the twins. “I called employee bureaus and said: ‘Hello, what can we do? How does this work?’”, Mr. Good explained.



Own salary

With help from HR, Abby and Brittany both got their own salary. They decided that they would split the salary for the parttime job. In an interview with BBC, the two said they realized why they would have to go with this offer.


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Applied usefully

“We knew right away that we’d only get one salary. We do the work as one person,” Abby admits. But Brittany believes that they’re more useful than just one employee. She said “One of us can teach and the other can answer questions about the material in the class.”


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More than one person

Brittany follows: “We can do more than one person.” Abby thinks this could help them make more money in the future. They’re both able to work. She adds: “If there’s more experience we can start to negotiate because we both have our own diplomas. We’re also capable of teaching classes in different ways.”





Until they have more experience, Brittany and Abby are fine with their parttime job. Mr. Good says in the show that they’re planning on giving the Siamese twins fulltime jobs at one point. “We’ve sent out letters to let others know that we plan on reintroducing the twins at the school’s open days,” he says.


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The principal was also convinced that they would be a positive asset to the school and that their characters are more important than the way they look. “I think that the moment someone gets in the twin’s class, all their worries will go away,” he says.




Good role models

Mr. Good emphasizes that Abby and Brittany would be good role models for the class. “I don’t think that there’s anything that the twins wouldn’t try or couldn’t do if they wanted,” he says. “To teach kids – especially those with learning disabilities – it’s very special. And that can only be done by someone who knows who can lead by example.”


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Teaching together

The twins don’t have any problem with the kids giving them weird looks. On camera they only talked about how excited they are for the future. And it seems as if their positivity has only helped their career. In December of 2017 they announced in Touch Weekly that they’re now teaching fifth grade together. This is awesome news for the twins!


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