The incredible story of the Hensel conjoined twins has inspired men and women alike all over the world. This is the wonderful, inspiring and sometimes bittersweet story of the stars of their own show, Abby & Brittany.
Abby and Brittany’s parents always wanted them to lead normal lives, but when TLC interviewed the conjoined twins in 2012, everything changed. What seemed like a simple interview turned into a TV show sensation that documented the lives of the girls. Almost immediately, America fell in love with Abby and Brittany.
Who Are They?
Besides their unbelievable birth, the two girls came from your average American family. Born in Minnesota to Patty, a registered nurse, and Mike Hensel, who is a carpenter and also landscaper, the twins were raised there in New Germany, Minnesota. In their family, they have a younger sister and brother. These inspirational women have never succumbed to any of the challenges during their lifetime. They even graduated from college in 2012. No, they did not even settle for an online college degree. They graduated from Bethel University in their home state of Minnesota! So, let’s take an inside look at the lives of these miraculous twins!
Surgery Was Not An Option
Yes, you’re all wondering how the anatomy works with these conjoined twins. So, they do share one body but with separate organs. As far as vital organs go, each twin has her own lungs, spinal cord, spine, stomach and heart. However, there is only one reproductive system. Thus, surgery to separate them at birth would have proved extremely dangerous and risky.
Well, we all realize this case is unique..but just how unique? For twins to be conjoined, there’s only a one in 189,000 chance. On top of that, the Hensel twins are dicephalic parapagus twins, which means conjoined with separate heads and one body. Dicephalic parapagus twins account for a mere 11 percent of conjoined twins. Unbelievable!
Who Does What?
Actually, each twin controls their respective side of the body. Therefore, the twins work as one for everyday tasks like walking. Imagine this, each twin controls one leg and one arm and must somehow synchronize movements to accomplish tasks.
Obviously, early stages of development were not as smooth for them. Their parents revealed how difficult the task of crawling was for them. Then imagine trying to walk! From an early age, the two had to coordinate movements. Eventually, the toddlers successfully mastered how to move in sync.
Walking To The Beat Of Their Own Drums
Nowadays, they walk with their own style. Individual styles actually! If you watch closely, you will notice Brittany walks on the tips of her toes, but Abby walks flat footed. Due to these differences, they appear to limp. However, this is not a limp, but rather, just their walking pattern.
As we mentioned previously, separation would have been extremely dangerous. However, the doctors did offer to attempt a separation after they were born. In fact, it was their parents who decided against the operation. The Hensels felt the risks were far too great. According to experts, they projected a high chance that neither girl would even survive the separation surgery. Luckily, their parents made the right move and the girls are leading happy lives because of it!
From Documentary to Show
Back when Abby and Brittany turned 16, TLC asked to film a documentary on them. As we know, they agreed to do the TLC documentary about their lives. The documentary covered everything in their daily lives to plans for the future. Due to its success, they got their own TLC show. Unfortunately, this show lasted just one season.
Despite what some may think, these twins can do everything that average people do daily. From bike riding to swimming and even driving, which we’ll get to, they mastered quite a lot! Of course, it took a little more than your average person. What we take for granted, these twins have to coordinate in order to accomplish. After years of practice, they’ve got it all down.
Brittany revealed that they had to take the written drivers test a second time, but have no fear. The twins passed! In addition, they passed the driven supervised test twice! Now, down to the technical. Abby controls things to the right side, and Brittany maintains the left side. So, once again they’ve found a system that works for them to stay in sync.
Another cool thing about these incredible twins is their varying interests. Actually, their respective interests and strengths compliment each other quite well. Brittany is a proficient writer while Abby prefers math. Despite excelling in opposite subjects, they work together in school quite well. In fact, as we mentioned they chose not to pursue an online college degree, but rather, they attended and graduated from a nearby college.
Back to writing, you may find their email style interesting. Okay, so yes, they are two distinct and very different people, yet they construct emails as one person. Surprisingly, when responding to emails, they’ll write as one. Apparently, since they are deeply sensitive to each other’s feelings with little to no oral communication needed, this helps them write faster.
Anyway, forget the singular email style, we promise they are distinct individuals. Seriously, they have totally different interests and dislikes. One example would be their clothing preferences and styles. Actually, they hired a seamstress in order to express their individuality and have custom necklines. It’s truly remarkable the way they don’t let any obstacle stand in their way, even when it comes to something as simple as clothing.
Out of all of their goals, education tops the list for them. As we explained, they chose not to let obstacles force them to pursue online college degrees, and instead attended Bethel University. Abby and Brittany graduated with a degree in education. Initially, they hoped to have different concentrations within the same major. However, this proved a bit too difficult with all the additional work. Nonetheless, they graduated with a degree, which is more than can be said for many young people their age! Thus, they have continued to prove people wrong and work hard to achieve their goals.
Post college, the twins moved into their first home. Of course, this marked a major milestone in their lives, as it would for anyone. Therefore, TLC used this move as the focus for their show. You could watch the twins decorating and prepping for their first ever part-time job as teachers!
Hopes Of Families
Perhaps, you’re wondering about romance. Yes, Abby and Brittany, like many young women, hope to one day fall in love and be married with children. Of course, they realize their conjoined body creates an obstacle, but they still believe they will find two men for them. Good for them!
Maybe you thought the twins loved being filmed and photographed since they starred on TLC. Turns out, they are not always so happy about being caught on camera. Their biggest pet peeve is people gawking at them and taking photos. However, the twins don’t mind if people ask for a photo, but without permission is a no. All they ask for is a simple request! We can’t blame them.
Of course, our favorite talk show host jumped in on the excitement. Yes that’s right, Oprah herself invited the twins onto her show when they were just 6 years old. Now, Abby and Brittany do not recall much of this appearance, but it was the world’s first taste of the twin’s world. Fans received them with curiosity and admiration.
These twins never cease to amaze us! In fact, they’re probably more athletic than us! One interest the two share would definitely be sports! They enjoy volleyball and bowling in particular. Actually, sports have aided them in their coordination skills.
Interested in Music
Their interests do not stop at sports. Actually, the two love music and love trying to play new instruments. In fact, they hope to master new instruments throughout their life. Now we see how Abby and Brittany are so inspiring! They make us feel guilty for giving up piano all those years ago!
When it Comes To Food
Please, if you thought they saved on meals, think again. As we mentioned, each girl has their own stomach. Naturally, they need two dinners. Well, we need to remind you that the two may share a body, but they have different tastes in food.
Did you think they would lose out on a cake just because they’re twins? Think again! Every year, they get two birthday cakes…because they are individuals! Now, we have to wonder whether one cake is chocolate and one is vanilla. Sure looks that way to us!
Perhaps, you have imagined what it’s like for them to get sick. Is it them or just one? Actually, they do not always get sick at the same time. Remember, they have different body systems. For example, even though Abby never had pneumonia, Brittany got it twice! Abby was sure lucky she has her own lungs!
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how wonderful their lives have been working together. However, things are not always easy for the two. Imagine having to compromise on everything in life down to eating and sleeping schedules. Luckily, compromising is another skill they’ve perfected over the years. I mean, we had enough trouble coordinating sleep schedules with our college roommate, so we can’t imagine! Kudos to them!
Despite how the two have thrived, doctors worry for the future. They fear that as they age, their health may deteriorate. Thankfully, their health has been fine for now. However, it’s alarming to hear that only four conjoined twins, who share torsos, made it through to adulthood.
To be more specific, there is the concern of heart failure or other organ defects that could come with age. Luckily, the twins have stayed in excellent shape since birth. After over two decades, the twins look forward to many years together.
The twins are lucky to share their lives with an amazing group of friends. They’re actually very social people. Perhaps, you remember these friends from their TLC show. One hope is that by sharing their personal lives with other, they can lead more normal lives and educate others.
Abby and Brittany constantly surpass expectations. From skipping online college degrees and going right for college to even maintaining a regular job! That’s right, the twins currently teach mathematics in primary school. Teaching together has been working out wonderfully for the two. They are able to multitask in ways other teachers cannot. For example, one monitors the class and one is able to answer any questions.
Leading Private Lives
Now, at 27 years old, Abby and Brittany lead very low key lives. Things have simmered down since their days in the spotlight. Today they want to lead quieter lives in peace. Yet, they have no regrets about their past. Actually, they feel all of the TV and media appearances helped fight back against stereotypes and misinformation about conjoined twins. We’re happy to report that the two are truly living their lives to the fullest!
Naturally, since they’re two people they do have two separate passports. I mean that part makes sense. Well, the good part is that they only need to purchase one ticket for the airplane. That part sounds nice though!
Another interesting thing to note is how the two girls react differently to certain things. For instance, coffee has a different effect on them. Abby does not seem to be affected much by the caffeine, while Brittany’s heart rate increases! Amazing!
If you can believe this, the twins actually had another ligament at birth. Yes, they had an arm protruding from their necks. Doctors surgically removed the arm, so that only a shoulder blade was left.
What impressed doctors among the many unbelieavale talents, was their musical abilities. Doctors could not believe how the two coordinated efforts in order to play piano. So Brittany handled the left hand bass keys while sister Abby played right hand for the treble keys. We can barely even coordinate with ourself to play piano. These girls are amazing!
Just as any mom would, the twins’ mom Patty was nervous them to drive. Of course, this surpassed normal parental fear when a daughter or son gets his or her license. Patty was nervous, saying, “I don’t know what would happen if they got pulled over for speeding. Would they each get a ticket or just Abby because it’s her foot on the accelerator?” It’s such a unique case, so she had a valid concern.
Two Degrees, One Salary
Technically, the girls each have their own degree. Therefore, they each have their own teaching license too. However, they are only paid one salary since their job is done by one person typically.
Things have not been easy for the twins, healthwise during their childhood and adolescent years. Actually, doctors needed to stop Abby’s spine growth through surgery after her sister Brittany’s stopped a bit prematurely. They were just 12 years old when they had surgery at Gillette Children’s Speciality Healthcare to mend their scoliosis and also help prevent breathing issues by expanding their chest cavity.
As shown on their TV show, riding a Segway proved very challenging. It’s remarkable that the twins are able to perform so well riding a bike and with other sports, so its understandable that they cannot do it all. Actually, Abby is taller than Brittany and has the longer leg. Thus, making riding a Segway nearly impossible.
So yes, they do share one seat on airplanes. With airline tickets so pricey, we truly envy that! However, they purchase individual tickets for the movies. Interesting.
Okay remember we said that if one was sick, the other doesn’t have to be sick necessarily? Well, this one is a bit mind boggling. When it comes to stomach aches, the pain is felt by the twin on the opposite side. Yeah, take a minute to let that sink in.
Something the twins have come to realize is just how different they really are! When it comes to clothing, they have different tastes. At times, they opt for mismatched shoes or leggings with separate colors on each leg to express their unique styles. Abby enjoys bright colors, but Brittany prefers more neutral tones.
Easy To Tell Them Apart
With some twins, it can be near impossible to differentiate the two. Well, as we made clear, these two have distinct interests and tastes of their own. If their style preferences don’t tip you off, here’s another important difference. Brittany is 4 ft 10 inches in height, while her sister Abby is a bit taller, measuring 5 ft 2 inches.
Despite spending every waking moment together, these two get along very well. In fact, they seldom argue. It’s common knowledge of those closest to the twins, that Abby is the dominant personality and wants to be in charge. According to the twins’ mom, Abby wants “to rule the whole house.”
Like some of their other unique features, the girls differ on body temperature. Yes, they have different temperatures, despite sharing some organs. Out of the two, Abby tends to warm up faster than Brittany. That could lead to some struggles over outfit choices!
Previously, we mentioned that Brittany got sick with pneumonia. Well, it was at that time that a restless Abby brought up separation. She was tired of the bed rest. However, Brittany cried when Abby talked about the idea of separating since she never wants to leave her twin sister. Thus, Abby calmed her and reassured her they would not be separated. How sweet!