The Curious Case of Conjoined Twins

When reading, hearing, and seeing anything about conjoined twins, our first inclination is to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the conjoined twins.

Rarely, do we initially take the place of the parents, more specifically the mother. It must be an eerie experience to find your baby whisked away by doctors, believing your new little one is heading off to a warming room, to find worried doctors appear with two children, connected as one.

This was the case with Patty Hensel.

There was no indicator of a twin ever present in the routine ultrasound visits during the gestation of her pregnancy. To everyone’s surprise, Patty gave birth to dicephalic parapagus twins, an extremely rare case, occurring 1 in every 200,000 live births, a rare form of partial twinning where there are two heads side by side on one torso.

Patty fell in love with her baby girls the moment she laid eyes on their small, twisted body. Doctors warned the Hensels that the baby girls would likely not survive through the night, yet against all odds, the conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany, lived fought through the night. They survived. Doctors presented the option of operating on the girls in an effort to separate the shared body, into two. However, doctors counseled the Hensels on the extremely low survival rates of such surgeries.

The Hensels decided against a separation surgery, only wanting survival for their girls. Abby and Brittany challenged all odds and not only survived, but thrived. Today, 28 years later, Abby and Brittany are able to walk, run, ride a bike, drive a car, and maintain a job as elementary school teachers. Today, Abby and Brittany are the world’s longest surviving dicephalic parapagus twins.

The conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany, live a hard life,and as one would suspect it is not all sunshine and rainbows.

Their neck supports two heads, and they share one torso, two arms, and two legs. Their body has two hearts and two spines that connect at one pelvis. Abby and Brittany share a circulatory system, rib cage, and reproductive system. Abby controls the right arm and leg, and Brittany controls the left arm and leg. Neither twin can feel the opposite side of their body.


It is an anomaly that the twins can move and function in the way that they do. The simple fact that one twin operates the gas pedal, while the other simultaneously operates the break, at the same time not being able to feel the opposite side, is superhuman.

Everything about their case is highly fascinating.

As a parent, your newborn’s survival is the single most important thing. Ergo, what propels a mother to decide to leave conjoined twins together? The twins’ lives are not their own. They are never alone. Ever. How can they get married, have their own private and intimate moments? Masturbating, a highly personal and necessary part of sexual health, now includes someone else-someone who is stuck to you.

How could you decide a child’s undeniably horrific fate? One so morbid and arguably grotesque.

Imagine tomorrow morning, waking up attached to your sibling. Your body is not your own, it’s shared. Inches from your face is another face. Your neck can’t fully turn without colliding into the other face. How are you to identify as two different people when you share one set of genitals and one reproductive system?

Have you ever needed alone time? You’re stressed, let’s say it’s the holidays, and you need to shut yourself in a room, close the door, and deeply exhale. All you want to do is rest on your bed close your eyes and be alone. Tough luck. Sorry, you can’t. For the rest of your life, you are never alone. Inserting a tampon is a shared experience. Having diarrhea is a shared experience. The literal process of wiping your butt is a shared experience. If your twin is sick, and you are healthy- too bad- now you are bedridden until they get better.

Let’s examine the highly rumored, but never proven, case of Edward Mordrake, a man born with two faces, bearing a face attached to the back of his head. This face could not control any of the body’s motor functions, but the face could speak. In the dark, late hours of the night, the face would mutter horrible things to Mordrake, such things “as they only speak of in hell.” Mordrake eventually commit suicide as he could not take the sadistic face, an autonomous part of him, so evil and so sinister.       

Suppose your twin was controlling, spiteful, and cruel. Your happiness would be trapped in a prison of someone else’s abhorrent personality.

Consider the case of dicephalic parapagus twins and ruminate on the intricacies of sexual attraction. We all have likes and dislikes when it comes to who we are sexually attracted to. What if your twin was attracted to someone you found repulsive and then chose to to have sex with said person? You would have little choice in the matter, after all, you are two different people, but you share one body. Who gets to make the all-encompassing decision on this one? If they decide it, you can’t leave. You’re trapped in a life of rape. You lay there, your head sprouted next to your twin’s, and maybe you’d shut your eyes and let the darkness of the room consume you, holding your breath while someone you find repulsive thrusts his cock into your shared body. Nothing is yours, except your head.

It’s a nightmarish existence- a living hell.

So I ask, why choose this for your child? To choose this path for your babies seems selfish. What kind of quality of life lies ahead? Understandably, any mother so desperately wants life for the children she has carefully carried for nine months. At any rate, if an operation could successfully save one child, but kill the other, would you choose it? This is truly a Sophie’s Choice misfortune.