Conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany Hensel , became household names after they let the media into their unique lives for a program on TLC. The twins were born in Carver County, Minnesota, to Patty and Mike Hensel. They have two siblings, a younger brother and sister. They were raised in New Germany, Minnesota, attended Lutheran High School in Mayer, and graduated from Bethel University in St. Paul in 2012. Conjoined twins are quite rare, occurring once in every 200,000 births and that is the reason Abby and Brittany’s story has become so popular. The fact that these two sisters are still alive today is a miracle.
The sisters share the same body but have several organs that are different. They do not share a heart, stomach, spins, lungs or spinal cord. Here are some interesting things you may not know about the Hensel twins. Each twin controls her half of their body, operating one arm and one leg. As infants, the initial learning of physical processes that required bodily coordination, such as clapping, crawling, and walking, required the cooperation of both twins.
While they can eat and write separately and simultaneously, activities such as running and swimming require them to coordinate and alternate their actions symmetrically. Together, they can type on a computer keyboard at a normal speed and drive a car. However, their disparate heights (Abby, 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m), is taller and longer of leg than Brittany, 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m)) led to difficulty in balancing a Segway, as shown in their 2012 reality series. Other activities as diverse as brushing hair and driving a car require each twin to perform separate actions that coordinate with the other’s.
Abby’s head tilts laterally outward about 5 degrees to the right, while Brittany’s tilts laterally at about 15 degrees to the left, causing her to appear shorter even when seated. Brittany’s leg is in fact nearly two inches shorter than Abby’s; and Brittany tends to stand and walk on tip-toe which has made her calf muscle significantly larger than Abby’s. The continued growth of Abby’s spine was surgically halted after Brittany prematurely stopped growing. At age 12, they underwent surgery at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare to correct scoliosis and to expand their chest cavity to prevent future difficulties with breathing.
The twins both have their own drivers license. They had to take the test twice, once for each of them. While they are driving Abby must control everything on the right and Brittany controls everything on the left and together they control the steering wheel. The two girls have very different personalities and interests. Abby loves math while Brittany loves to write.
They both graduated from high school in 2008. They began college at Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minnesota, majoring in education. They had considered pursuing different concentrations within that major, but the volume of extra coursework was prohibitive. They graduated with Bachelor of Arts degrees in 2012.
There is some concern about the twins’ continued good health, because only four known sets of conjoined twins who share an undivided torso and two legs have ever survived into adulthood, and most have congenital heart defects or other organ anomalies. None have shown up in their case. They intensely dislike being stared at or photographed by strangers while going about their private lives.
In interviews for the Discovery Channel in 2006, they, then 16, said that they hoped to date, get married, and have children. They also stated that they hoped that by providing some information about themselves, they would be able to lead otherwise fairly typical social lives.
The twins become known around the world when they were 6 years old, when they appeared on‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ and were also on the cover of Life magazine. Even though they share the same body, the twins have always been treated as separate identities. Two pair even buys separate tickets whenever they go to the movies. The two don’t both get sick at the same time. Brittany has previously had pneumonia but Abby was not affected by the illness at all.
Abby and Brittany have different styles so the clothes that they wear express that. They sometimes wear two different shoes or have leggings with a different color on each leg. Brittany likes to wear neutral colors while Abby likes colors that are more bright and vibrant. The two respond differently to coffee. Brittany’s heart rate increases while coffee doesn’t have much of an effect on Abby. The twins have different body temperatures. Abby usually gets warmer a lot faster. Even though the twins only need to buy one ticket to fly, they still have separate passports.
Upon their birth, the twins’ parents decided not to attempt surgical separation after hearing from doctors that it was not likely that both would survive the operation. As they grew and learned to walk and develop other skills, their parents confirmed their decision against separation, arguing that the quality of life for the surviving twin or twins living separately would be less than their quality of life as conjoined beings. The twins had said in an interview that they would love to one day be able to date, get married and have children.
The two have let the media into their lives. There have been special series of their story aired on TV about their graduation from Bethel University, their job search, and travels in Europe. Abby and Brittany have earned two teaching licenses. They will only be paid one salary though because the work is technically done by one person.
The two want to be teachers so that they can be role models and show others how to have a positive attitude towards life. In 2012, their last TLC special aired which ultimately turned into a full-blown TV show for them. Since 2013, however, they have been keeping a relatively low profile. The twins are in sync now that they are adults. They said that is was difficult while they were younger but they now are able to coordinate with each other much better. They often have to make sacrifices to do an activity that the other enjoys but they both do enjoy bowling and volleyball. Now, in 2017, the twins are teaching together at Mounds View elementary school.