Abigail and Brittany Hensel were born in 1990 to Mike and Patty Hensel of Minnesota. They are one of four pairs of dicephalic twins (conjoined twins whose heads share a single body) known to have survived at any point in history. They were also born with a third vestigial arm which was removed, as it was useless, two hearts, and a third lung. They personally avoid the term Siamese Twins, and consider themselves two individuals with one body, and not one person with two heads.
Each girl controls only the leg and arm on her side of the body-- yet they can ride a bike, tie shoes, swim, and perform any action that requires that all limbs be coordinated. They often anticipate what the other is thinking, or finish each other's sentences, but other identical twins report similar experiences. Eileen Pearlman, a therapist and twin who has studied twins, believes this may be a result of similar neural wiring and experiences, rather than some hypothetical psychic connection. Others wonder if the joined nature of the Hensel Twins results in nervous systems that actually connect in some manner.
The girls are happy, healthy, and popular in their small town. Their parents have always encouraged each girl's individual personality. Some clothing is modified so that the tops have two separate necks.
They developed scoliosis because of their conjoined spine, and required surgery in 2002. In 2006, they received their driver's licenses, and in 2008, they graduated high school and began classes at Bethel University. They say they would like to have children some day.
In 2012, TLC began an eight-part reality show based on the twins' lives.
Their joined nature presents some unique problems and raises some interesting questions. When they were in day care, a rule permitting only two children at a play station at one time had to be modified, since the girls would otherwise never have been able to interact with another child at a station. Extrapolate from that experience and you have the reality with which the twins shall always live.
A documentary, Joined for Life, aired on The Discovery Channel in 2002. A follow-up appeared in 2006.
Other sources include an article at
and a now-famous piece in Life magazine (April 1996), "Together Forever" by Jen M.R. Doman and Kenneth Miller with photography by Steve Wewerka.