Update on Abby and Brittany Hensel

By | April 25, 2013

Abby and Brittany HenselLike most 23-year-olds Abby and Brittany Hensel love spending time with their friends, going on holiday, driving, playing sport such as volleyball and living life to the full.

The identical, conjoined twins from Minnesota, in the United States, have graduated from Bethel University and are setting out on their career as primary school teachers with an emphasis on maths.

Although they have two teaching licences, there is one practical difference when it comes to the finances.

“Obviously right away we understand that we are going to get one salary because we’re doing the job of one person,” says Abby.

“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.”

“One can be teaching and one can be monitoring and answering questions,” says Brittany. “So in that sense we can do more than one person.”

Their friend Cari Jo Hohncke has always admired the sisters’ teamwork.

“They are two different girls, but yet they are able to work together to do the basic functions that I do every day that I take for granted,” says Hohncke.

The twins know each other so well that they often say the same things or finish each other’s sentences, and are supportive and understanding of the other in all aspects of life.

With two sets of lungs, two hearts, two stomachs, one liver, one large intestine and one reproductive system, they have learned from a young age to co-ordinate their body, with Abby controlling the right hand side and Brittany the left.

There is a difference in height and at 5ft 2in (1.57m) Abby is taller than her sister Brittany who is 4ft 10in (1.47m). As their two legs are different lengths, Brittany has to stand on tip toe, on her leg, to ensure they maintain their balance.

They have had to learn to reach compromises on everything from what food they eat to their social life and even the clothes they wear.

“We definitely have different styles,” says Abby. “Brittany’s a lot more like neutrals and pearls and stuff like that and I would rather have it be more fun and bright and colourful.”

While Abby is seen as the “outspoken” sister and will always win the argument about what they are going to wear, Brittany says her twin is also much more homely, whereas she prefers going out.

There are other differences too. Brittany is scared of heights, whereas Abby is not. Abby is interested in maths and science, while Brittany prefers the arts.

They also respond differently to coffee. After a few cups Brittany’s heart rate increases, but Abby is not affected.

And they have different body temperatures.

“I can be a totally different temperature than Brittany would be,” says Abby, “and a lot of times our hands are different temperatures, so I get super-hot way faster.”

Despite having a normal family and social life, studying and working like any other young women, they do face some additional problems.

For example, they have to put up with speculation about their private life – something they prefer not to discuss. The twins deny a rumour that Brittany has become engaged, describing it as a “dumb joke”.

Travelling to a new country with friends on holiday is also not as straightforward for conjoined twins. They have two passports, but one ticket as they only take up one seat on the aeroplane. However they also have to be on their guard and more aware of entering crowded or confined spaces because members of the public will often try to take unwelcomed photographs.

As a close friend of the twins Erin Junkans says you always need to be alert because you never quite know how people are going to react or what they are going to say.

“I want to make sure that they’re safe and that they’re not completely exposed, definitely just standing in the way of pictures, just always keeping an eye on what’s going on and just how the girls are reacting to the crowds,” says Junkans.

“Sometimes if they get more overwhelmed then‚Ķ we just need to get away from [the] area for a little bit, but they amaze me at their ability to just shake it off and keep seeing what we are there to see.”

Conjoined twins are very rare – it is thought one in every 200,000 births – and around 40-60% of these births are sadly delivered stillborn. Female siblings tend to have a better survival rate than male siblings.

Any operation to separate conjoined twins is a highly complex and dangerous process. It was a risk that Abby and Brittany’s parents did not want to take for fear that one of the twins might not have survived the surgery or have the same quality of life they do now. …

via BBC News – Living a conjoined life.

Please excuse the British, they don’t know what they are saying in American English when they say, “Brittany says her twin is also much more homely”. Glad to see the twins are doing well!

15 thoughts on “Update on Abby and Brittany Hensel

  1. jimcool

    How anyone could not treat these two as individuals is just beyond human comprehesion. Thier school they may work for needs to go to school and learn what our humanity word means. So they are doing the job of one, but two indivuals are doing it.Junk.. I say they are doing what has never been done, providing a two school teacher class with one salery, is threre something so wrong with two saleries for two people,I,ll even bet and lay wager on this, They never even entertained the idea of a salery and a half.Do they get one social security in the end and if so who to!This bugs me big time,Two whole people and one pay day>It just flips me out.

  2. jacob

    i found their story very inspirational and thought provoking. their mannerisms made me smile. i thought it was really nice to see how they coordinated together to accomplish one goal. i would like to see them continue to succeed :]

  3. Anna

    I have tried to follow your life since the first special when you were 12. I am amazed at how well coordinated you are. You are wonderful young ladies and I’m glad you finished college and have teaching jobs.

  4. Brigitte

    I just watched a BBC programme about Abby and Brittany and was wondering if they did wind up getting a teaching job. Having a twin sister to whom I’m very close and being a teacher, I feel I can relate to a lot of Abby and Brittany’s experience (completing each others’ sentences, teamwork, people treating you like you’re not individuals, a bit of gawking/stupid questions from complete strangers). Granted, my sister and I don’t have to deal with the practical problems that come with having a conjoined twin. On the other hand, I sometimes wish that I could take my twin to work with me, so it’s nice for the Abby and Brittany to be able to do that. I don’t understand why two people can only get one salary, though. What about social security, taxes, benefits, etc.?

    Anyway, best of luck to you, girls.

    (also, sorry for any mistakes — I’m French)

  5. Billie Mudry Spaight

    These women are an inspiration to us all! They have overcome many obstacles and are continuing to do so. I wish them every success and as much happiness as possible. They are living proof that being different can be very beautiful instead of being something to fear and hate.

  6. Sirreenia

    Hi Mrs.Abby and Mrs.Brittany, how are you guys doing? I miss you guys so much, I just loved being in your math class! Btw I love my new school, and Lerrasia said she misses you guys so much!! Well I hope you guys have a wonderful New Years!!!Ttyl:)

  7. B

    I wish they would be more candid about things, not because of morbid curiosity but because they are so special and rare. Being more open and candid would be historical.

    1. Chris

      Really? I think sharing on these shows are pretty open. Go shove a camera up your a$$.
      How about they are not test rats but people. SMH what is wrong with some people.

  8. Diane Brooks

    I admire the girls parents for letting their girls just be girls,joining softball,learning to drive,I think I would be so overprotective,and what loving & caring friends,I hope in my heart these lovely young women always stay just as sweet & funloving & fulfill all their dreams.

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