Conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel don't let rare and difficult circumstances prevent them from living fulfilling lives.
There’s something fascinating about conjoined twins. After all, many people have siblings they’re close with. But very few actually share a body part, and even fewer share a single body. Abby and Brittany Hensel are perhaps the most famous such pair, likely because they’ve been willing to publicly discuss their condition. They even had their own television show, Abby & Brittany, which first aired on TLC in 2012.
Abby and Brittany are unique among conjoined twins. Each has her own head, but they share most everything else: torso, pelvis, legs, internal organs, and reproductive organs.
However, each girl has her own spine, lungs, and stomach. Basically, Abby and Brittany have two separate bodies that join at the ribcage. In fact, they were born with a small, rudimentary arm between them, which had to be removed. Otherwise, everything below the pelvis is shared.
When the twins were first born, their parents had to decide if they wanted doctors to attempt surgical separation. But because of very well-founded fears that at least one of them wouldn’t survive, they decided against it. As the girls have aged, they have had to undergo several other surgeries, including one to stop the growth of Abby’s spine after Brittany stopped growing.
For obvious reasons, Abby and Brittany Hensel have had to live as a team. Each girl controls one half of their body, so even the simple act of walking has to be coordinated. In fact, this is harder than it sounds because Brittany is a few inches shorter than Abby, requiring her to basically tip-toe when walking.
But a lifetime of practice has made them exceptionally good at working together. The girls have learned to swim, run, and ride bicycles as well as anyone else. Together, Abby and Brittany even drive a car.
That’s not to say that the two agree on everything. Each has different tastes in things like style or food. But they do seem to have a unique ability to understand what the other is thinking. And when communicating through writing, they use the word “I” if they both agree on something. If their opinions differ, they use their names in the third person instead.
Being conjoined with their sister has posed some obvious challenges, especially when it comes to making plans for the future. Luckily, both agreed on what they wanted their future to be. In 2008, Abby and Brittany began college at Bethel University, majoring in education. They graduated four years later and began the process of looking for a job.
The two found work as part-time elementary schoolteachers soon after, a journey documented in another television program called Abby and Brittany: Joined for Life. By 2017, the twins had found work as full-time teachers, splitting a single paycheck.
Though there were some worries that the kids might react negatively to having conjoined twins as their teacher, this hasn’t been the case. And in fact, many are inspired by what the two have accomplished in the face of so much adversity.
Compared to their previous lives as reality television stars, they tend to keep a low profile these days. That’s particularly true of their love life. Though both have expressed a desire to one day get married and have children, they have been reluctant to discuss this one issue publicly.
Obviously, the subject inspires a lot of curiosity among strangers, which is perhaps why they don’t like to talk about it. And of course, it would raise a number of different ethical issues. But both have dismissed the rumors that Brittany got engaged in 2012.
But even if marriage isn’t in the cards in the near future, the one thing Abby and Brittany Hensel never lack is companionship. And both seem to be happy living their lives together the way they always have.
Enjoy this article about conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel? Next, read about the curious life of the conjoined twin Hilton sisters. Then, read about the “Jim Twins” separated at birth who later found that they have live incredibly similar lives.