Amazing Story: Abigail and Brittany Hensel, the ‘two headed girl’
Abigail “Abby” Loraine Hensel and Brittany “Britty” Lee Hensel (born March 7, 1990, Carver County, Minnesota, United States), are highly symmetric dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins, and further, tribrachius, bipedus. They have two spines and separate half-sacrums, which converge distally within a slightly broad pelvis. They each control and sense their corresponding arm and leg; a third, rudimentary central arm was amputated in infancy.
Abigail and Brittany Hensel’s parents are Patty, a registered nurse, and Mike Hensel, a carpenter and landscaper. The twins have a younger brother named Dakota, or Koty for short, and a younger sister named Morgan. Brittany’s head is about 15 degrees laterally outward, while Abby’s head tilts laterally outward about 5 degrees, causing Brittany to appear to be of slightly less stature. They were raised in New Germany, Minnesota and attended Lutheran High School affiliated with the Missouri Synod in Mayer, Minnesota. 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.
Each of the twins manages one side of their conjoined body and they are quite ambidextrous and coordinated in both their arms and legs when both hands or both legs are required. By coordinating their efforts, they are able to walk, run and ride a bicycle normally — all tasks that they learned at a normal speed. They each write with their corresponding hand. Together, they can type on a computer keyboard at a normal speed. Their sense of touch is partitioned to their own body half, which shades off at the midsagittal plane such that there is a small amount of overlap at their midline. They enjoy hobbies and sports including volleyball, kickball, swimming, basketball, and cycling. They also play the piano and are avid computer users. They enjoy softball, digital photography, the internet, social networking, and talking on the telephone. When they go to the cinema, they pay for two tickets.
In April 2006, they appeared in Joined for Life, a documentary produced by Advanced Medical, distributed on the Discovery Health Channel. They also appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 8 and April 29, 1996. In April 1996, the twins were featured on the cover of Life under the caption “One Body, Two Souls”, and their daily lifestyle was depicted in the corresponding article titled The Hensels’ Summer. Life followed up with another story in September 1998. In 2003, an updated story of them at age 11 (filmed in 2001) was published in Time and again in Life. They appeared in a follow-up documentary on The Learning Channel on December 17, 2006 filmed around the time of their 16th birthday, in which they discuss dealing with puberty and getting their driver’s licenses. In the summer of 2006 they had a vacation in Texas at the home of a family whose dicephalus twin girls had died at a few hours old.
They both successfully passed their driver’s license exam, both the written and driving tests. They had to take the tests twice, once for each twin. Abby controls the pedals, radio, heat, defogger etc., Brittany controls the turn signal and lights and together they control the steering wheel. They also want to visit the UK, so they can both have a chance to use their opposite controls.
They both graduated from high school in 2008. They began college at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.
In conversation, they are clearly distinct persons, with distinct likes and dislikes. Despite sharing a body, the twins’ preferences in food, clothing color, etc. differ. Some of their clothes are altered by their seamstress so that they have two separate necklines in order to emphasize their individuality. They will usually have separate meals, but sometimes will share a single meal for the sake of convenience (e.g., each takes a bite of the same hamburger). Abigail is better at mathematics and Brittany is better at writing. For tasks such as responding to e-mail, they type and respond as one, anticipating each other’s feelings with little verbal communication between them. In such cases as the latter, their choice of grammatical person is to use the first person singular out of habit when they agree, but when their responses do differ, they use their names in the third person singular.
There is some concern about their ability to have 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 the Hensels’ case. They have so far had no desire to make themselves available for any medical studies. They intend to make a rather limited number of media appearances in the future, primarily just to appease the world’s curiosity and to reduce the number of people who might otherwise be taken aback by their unusual body configuration. They dislike intensely being stared at or photographed by strangers while going about their private lives. They expect to date, get married, and have children. They hope that by providing some information about themselves they will be able to lead otherwise fairly typical social lives as together they continue to make new friends.
Inventory of organ distribution
Most of Abigail’s and Brittany’s shared organs are located at or below the level of the navel and their merging coccyx.
* 2 heads
* 2 completely separate spinal cords
* 2 spines with ribs bridging the two columns
* 2 arms (originally 3, but rudimentary central arm was surgically removed, leaving central shoulder blade in place)
* 1 broad ribcage, with surgery to correct scoliosis and expand the pleural cavities
* 2 breasts
* 2 highly fused sternums, traces of bridging ribs
* 4 lungs (medial lungs moderately fused, not involving Brittany’s upper right lobe); three pleural cavities
* 1 diaphragm with well-coordinated involuntary breathing, slight central defect
* 2 hearts in a shared circulatory system (nutrition, respiration, medicine taken by either affects both)
* 2 stomachs
* 2 gallbladders
* 1 liver, enlarged and elongated right lobe
* Y-shaped small intestine which experiences a slightly spastic double peristalsis at the juncture
* 1 large intestine with one colon
* 2 left kidneys, 1 right kidney
* 1 bladder
* 1 set of reproductive organs
* 2 separate half-sacrums, which converge distally
* 1 slightly broad pelvis
* 2 legs