Home Lifestyle Inside the lives of conjoined twins Brittany and Abby Hensel

Inside the lives of conjoined twins Brittany and Abby Hensel

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Brittany and Abby Hensel and (right) with Abby’s husband Josh (Picture: Facebook)

They drive a car together, use expert co-ordination to both play piano and dream of one day starting a family.

Conjoined twins Brittany and Abby Hensel, 34, were deemed a medical miracle after they became one of the first sets of conjoined twins to survive infancy

They share a single body and all the same organs, including the intestine, bladder and reproductive organs. Joined at the pelvis, the sisters have two heads and one body. Brittany controls one side of the body and Abby the other.

Through their own series on American network TLC, the twins- who work as teachers – told their story to the world and inspiring thousands across the globe.

As news now emerges of Abby’s secret wedding to partner Josh Bowling, we take a look at the journey of these inspirational sisters.

When were Brittany and Abby born?

When Abby and Brittany were born, doctors told their parents they likely wouldn’t survive the night

The sisters were born on March 7, 1990 in Carver County, Minnesota in the United States to Patty, a nurse, and Mike, a carpenter. Conjoined twins are incredibly rare, occurring once in every 200,000 births. Often, the survival rate is low.

Mum Patty had no idea she was carrying twins until the birth, when she was heavily sedated during the delivery as the reality of her pregnancy became clear.

Doctors told Patty and Mike they could perform surgery on the small babies – who are dicephalic parapagus twins – in an attempt to separate them. But doing so would have been dangerous, with it likely one of the sisters would die as a result

‘How could you pick between the two?’, dad Mike told Time Magazine in 2001. He and Patty decided not to go ahead with the surgery.

Brittany and Abby were brought up in the rural town of New Germany, Minnesota where they quickly adapted to their special situation. They became adept at sharing their limbs, and soon were running, playing and swimming just like younger brother Dakota and younger sister Morgan.

The pair also learned to play the piano – with Abigail taking the right-hand parts and Brittany the left.

Abby has previously said: ‘We never wish we were separated because we would never be able to do all the things that we do now, like play softball, run and do sports.’

The sisters would often speak at the same time – purely on instinct, as many twins do – but also always stressed their differences and unique personalities. Abby, the more serious of the two, would drink orange juice with breakfast while Brittany, the joker, would opt for milk.

‘Believe me, we are totally different people,’ Brittanytold the Daily Mail in 2006, while Abigail added: ‘I’m more into like pink and girly and Brittany is more not into pink…we take turns. One day Brittany will pick the outfit and the next day I will pick the outfit.’

When did Brittany and Abby get their own TV show?

The twins were featured on Oprah and appeared on the cover of Life magazine (Picture: BBC/Figure 8 Films)

Abby and Brittany Hensel first gained national attention when they appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996. They went on to appear in documentaries such as Joined for Life and Joined at Birth.

When on the Oprah show, the then-six-year-olds explained they would ‘flip a coin’ if they couldn’t decide on the same thing. Abby and Brittany also said how they would share ‘all their secrets’.

The sisters went on to appear in documentaries such as Joined for Life and Joined at Birth.

Following the success of their appearance on Oprah, they were offered their very own reality show and ‘Abby & Brittany’ aired on TLC in 2012, following their lives as they studied and graduated from Bethel University, a Christian College based in Minnesota. 

‘People have been curious about us since we were born, for obvious reasons,’ the twins declared in the first episode of the eight-part series. 

‘But our parents never let us use that as an excuse. We were raised to believe we could do anything we wanted to do.’

What do Abby and Brittany do for work?

The 34-year-olds have been working as teachers at Sunnyside Elementary following their graduation from  Bethel University. They teach fourth and fifth grade children – the equivalent of Year 5 and 6 in the UK – with a specific focus on maths.

In their television show, Abby and Brittany revealed they were only paid one salary. But were said to be happy with the arrangement, agreeing initially they were ‘doing the job of one person.’

In 2013, Abby told the BBC: ‘As maybe experience comes in we’d like to negotiate a little bit, considering we have two degrees and because we are able to give two different perspectives or teach in two different ways.’ 

Brittany added: ‘One [of us] can be teaching and one can be monitoring and answering questions. So in that sense we can do more than one person.’

Abby and Brittany drive to work – although they both had to pass their test separately despite using the same limbs, as the state of Minnesota required both to hold their own individual license.

Brittany previously explained: ‘Abby does the pedals and the gear shifter. I take over the blinkers and the lights. But she likes driving faster than me.’

When did Abby get married?

Abby tied the knot with Josh Bowling, a nurse and United States Army veteran (Picture: Facebook)

The sisters always dreamed of marriage and starting their own families. But prying questions about their personal lives soon became an issue. In 2012, Brittany said: ‘The whole world doesn’t need to know who we are seeing, what we are doing and when we are going to do it.

‘But believe me, we are totally different people.’

Abby added: ‘Yeah, we are going to be mums one day, but we don’t want to talk about how it’s going to work yet.’

Since then Abby has secretly tied the knot with her partner Josh Bowling in a ceremony in Minnesota. The couple had featured on the sisters’ television show, but kept their relationship private after the show ended after one season.

However, recent documents have revealed that Abby and army veteran Josh got married in 2021, and a clip shared on TikTok revealed the wedding ceremony.

The pair were seen in a wedding dress, while a beaming Josh wore a sharp grey suit and held their hands. His Facebook page also features happy images of him with the twins enjoying ice cream and travelling together.

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