The Hensels: 1 Body, 2 Souls


Conjoined twins are identical twins, joined in utero. An extremely rare phenomenon, the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 49,000 births to 1 in 189,000 births, with a somewhat higher incidence in Southeast Asia and Africa. Approximately half are stillborn, and an additional one-third die within 24 hours. Most live births are female, with a ratio of 3:1. Sometimes they manage to survive until adulthood and that makes such twins a living sensation.

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On March 7, 1990, Patty and Mike Hensel came to the hospital to give birth to their twins. But something went wrong. They welcomed two girls, Abby and Brittany, but they shared one body. One of the rarest cases of conjoined twins in history. Through examination showed that twins have individual organs in the upper part of their body, while most located at or below the level of the navel is shared, the exception being the spinal cord.

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They were strong and healthy so that doctors predicted them long and happy lives. But in one body. As separation could kill both or make their life quality was much lower. Abby and Brittany were raised just like all other kids, but for one exception – they had to spare double effort for learning regular stuff, like walking, swimming or riding their bike.

First, they couldn’t understand why it was they who turned out to be trapped in this body and even considered themselves freaks. No wonder, people couldn’t stop gasping when seeing them around and started dragging out their cameras all the time they saw sisters. But then Hansel twins realized they were special and they just had to learn to live with what they had.

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Each twin manages one side of their conjoined body. The sense of touch of each is restricted to her body half; this shades off at the midsagittal plane such that there is a small amount of overlap at the midline. Stomach aches, however, are felt only by the twin on the opposite side. Walking is a simultaneous work of both sisters. Considering the fact that their heights differ much: Abby – 5 ft 2 in and she is taller and longer of the leg than Brittany, who is 4 ft 10 in, girls have difficulties in balancing and Brittany has to walk on her toe.

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No matter what these ladies wanted to live normal lives. So, they graduated from high school and even got driving licenses. And yes, they have to pass their driving test twice. They never planned to stop and after graduation from college, the twins got their first job as math teachers at school they attended earlier. The only thing that kind of makes them sad is that sisters receive only one salary as they can’t work in two classes at a time.

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Abby and Brittany accept themselves the way they are, inspiring millions of people all over the world. They have a lot of friends, a loving family, and an average life despite their super rare condition. Girls dream of real romantic relationship, marriage, and kids. Let us see if they can reach this aim.


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