30 Interesting Things About Famous Conjoined Twins Abby And Brittany Hensel

Published on February 19, 2017
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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.

TLC Show

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.

TLC Show1
TLC Show

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!

Who Are They@
Who Are They?

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.

Surgery Was Not An Option
Surgery Was Not An Option

Unique Case

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!

Unique Case
Unique Case

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.

Who Does What@
Who Does What?

Early Struggles

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.

Early Struggles
Early Struggles

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.

Walking To The Beat Of Their Own Drums
Walking To The Beat Of Their Own Drums

Too Risky

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!

Too Risky
Too Risky

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.

From Documentary To Show
From Documentary To Show

Everyday Tasks

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.

Everyday Tasks
Everyday Tasks

Driving

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.

Driving
Driving

Complimentary Strengths

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.

Complimentary Strengths
Complimentary Strengths

Emails

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.

Emails
Emails

Individuals

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.

Individuals
Individuals

Education

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.

Education
Education

Major Milestone

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!

27
Major Milestone

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!

Hopes Of Families
Hopes Of Families

Photo Ops

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.

Photo Ops
Photo Ops

Oprah

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.

Oprah
Oprah

Sporty Twins

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.

Sporty Twins
Sporty Twins

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!

Interested In Music
Interested In Music

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.

When It Comes To Food
When It Comes To Food

Birthdays

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!

Birthdays
Birthdays

Separate Systems

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!

Separate Systems
Separate Systems

Compromising

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!

Compromising
Compromising

Doctors Worry

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.

Doctors Worry
Doctors Worry

Growing Older

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.

Growing Older
Growing Older

Social Butterflies

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.

Social Butterflies
Social Butterflies

Teaching Together

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.

Teaching Together
Teaching Together

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!

Leading Private Lives
Leading Private Lives

Passports

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!

Passports
Passports

Caffeine

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!

Caffeine
Caffeine

At Birth

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.

At Birth
At Birth

Musically Gifted

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!

Musically Gifted
Musically Gifted

Motherly Concerned

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.

Motherly Concern
Motherly 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.

Two Degrees One Salary
Two Degrees, One Salary

Health Complication

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.

Health Complications
Health Complications

Balancing Act

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.

Balancing Act
Balancing Act

Unlike Planes

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.

Unlike Planes
Unlike Planes

Stomach Pains

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.

Stomach Pains
Stomach Pains

Style Choices

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.

Style Choices
Style Choices

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.

Easy To Tell Them Apart
Easy To Tell Them Apart

Dominant Personality

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.”

Dominant Personality
Dominant Personality

Body Temperatures

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!

Body Temperatures
Body Temperatures

separation Talks

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!

Separation Talks
Separation Talks
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