Hensel Twins Life Update: Inside the Adult Lives of Famous Conjoined Twins
The names Abby and Brittany Hensel may not ring a bell at first, but you'll recognize them immediately when you see their picture. Abby and Brittany are some of the most famous conjoined twins in the world and were the stars of their own hit TLC reality series, Abby and Brittany.
Although the world fell in love with the twins, their show only lasted for a single season. Since then, the women have broken even more barriers and continue to live incredible lives.
Abby and Brittany both have their own vital organs, but they share a single body with one pair of legs and arms. This means they have to make plenty of mutual decisions, and deciding what they wanted to do with their lives was one of these difficult choices.
Where Will They Work?
After much deliberation, Abby and Brittany decided that they would both attend Bethel University in Minnesota, the state where they were raised. After four years of hard work, the twins graduated in 2012 with two Bachelor of Arts degrees. Their degrees opened up a variety of opportunities, but they had to decide on a single career.
Back to Television
Being alive and healthy as unseparated adult conjoined twins is a feat by itself. Moving away from the support of family and friends, attending four years of college and graduating with great grades is tough for the average young adult too, and being conjoined twins only made things that much more interesting for Abby and Brittany.
Return to London
Taking a trip around the world requires a lot of preparation for anyone, but it required double the preparation for the sisters. With two of their friends from college, the twins visited England and Italy. Part of this trip was documented on their second TLC series.
Preparing for Medical Questions
At home, the Hensels have doctors who are well-acquainted with their entire medical history. An emergency visit to a doctor abroad would likely have been difficult because a doctor would first have to understand how the twins’ organs connect and which organs they share before they could be treated.
Dealing With the Public
With their kind personalities and can-do attitudes, the twins don't have a lot of trouble making friends and finding acceptance back at home. Public perception was a concern when they were preparing for their European trip. The pair were well aware that most people don’t see conjoined twins walking around every day.
Capturing the Moment
Despite their physical differences, Abby and Brittany are just like anyone else, and that really showed when they were on their big trip. Like most tourists, they wanted to take plenty of pictures to capture their once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Although they enjoyed themselves in Europe, the decision about what to do with the rest of their lives still loomed over the twins. Months of conversations and job applications led to a great workplace for the Hensels. Ironically, after traveling around the world, their career took them right back to Minnesota.
The interview process for becoming a teacher can be a lengthy one. After the school expressed interest in the twins' resumes, they set up a meeting with the school principal and four teachers who would become their co-workers. The meeting between the Hensels and the school faculty was a major success.
How Much Do They Get Paid?
Although he was excited to hire them, one of the first calls that the Sunnyside Elementary principal made after hiring the twins was to the human resources department. What was the fair and legal way to pay them? Would they both get separate benefits?
Although the school was excited to have Abby and Brittany on their team, there was a lot of preparation that went into getting the public and the students ready for them to teach. The school hired a public relations professional to write up letters to be sent to families informing them of the new teachers' arrival.
How Do Students React?
Meeting students for the first time wasn’t a new experience for Abby and Brittany. Like other teachers across the United States, they were required to be student teachers as part of their college coursework. The school was more concerned about how the students would react to having conjoined twins as teachers, not about how Abby and Brittany would handle teaching.
Amazing Math Teachers
Students and teachers both give the Hensels rave reviews. One student has even said that she loves having the twins as teachers because when one is busy she can ask the other a question. As math teachers, they’ve been able to really perfect their craft.
Will They Ever Separate?
When they were born, doctors presented the possibility of separating the girls to their parents. At that time, it was determined the surgery had more risks than potential positive outcomes. Many conjoined twins die as babies, so there were already plenty of health concerns.
After considering all of the risks involved, the twins' parents decided that a separation surgery wasn’t necessary and wouldn’t benefit the girls. As adults, they still have the option of separating, but the same risks are present. It will always be an option for the women, but it's not one they're considering.
Although they’ve decided not to get surgery to separate, the Hensels have had less-complicated surgeries. One of the major procedures happened in their pre-teens. Brittany is shorter than Abby, and due to the shape of her bones, it’s unlikely that she will ever grow more.
When Abby and Brittany were born, they had to have surgery early on. They were born with a third arm growing near both of their heads. Doctors were able to remove the limb. Since then, the two have grown into happy, healthy and amazing women.
A Great Childhood
Brittany and Abby were raised by two empowering parents. Their parents have long believed that separating the twins would cause more harm than good, so they carefully prepared them to thrive as conjoined twins. They guided the young girls through learning how to function together.
Fortunately, the Hensels are living in a time when there is more medical information than ever before about the long-term health of conjoined twins. Many conjoined twins can develop severe respiratory health problems because the body cavity that holds the lungs tends to gradually weaken over time.
A Unique Type of Conjoinment
In addition to being conjoined, Abby and Brittany are especially unique because they’re the only dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins who have survived into adulthood. "Dicephalic" means that each woman has her own head. "Parapagus" means that they’re joined at the spine.
Brittany and Abby may be conjoined, but they are two different women. In subtle ways, they maintain their individuality. Especially for special occasions, they get their clothes custom-tailored so that the neckline can fit evenly at each twin's neck. Brittany is shorter than Abby, so it's more comfortable that way.
In one of their first television specials, the twins revealed their aspiration to get married and raise their own respective families. At that time, they were still just teenagers. Over the years, the twins have become understandably more guarded when it comes to discussing their love life in public.
Despite their refusal to talk about their romantic life, the public continues to make up rumors. There’s been speculation over the years that one of the twins is engaged. During their 2012 TLC special, the twins dispelled that rumor. Unfortunately, the media and the public have tried to pry into the twins' love life.
All of their feats are amazing, but the skill that has surprised Abby and Brittany's doctors the most is their ability to play the piano. This is a difficult task for anyone to master, but it's usually very difficult for conjoined twins to do something that requires so much mental and physical coordination.
Because the twins are recognized both medically and legally as two separate individuals, paperwork can get a little more complicated than you may expect. For example, they each had to complete their own coursework throughout school. They each had to take individual SATs and apply to college separately.
Brittany and Abby have their own brains and their own individual thoughts and feelings. Nevertheless, they have spent every moment of their lives together. They know each other better than anyone else, and they can never be apart.
For the Love of Volleyball
Abby and Brittany are great volleyball players. They’ve played since elementary school, and they even became volleyball coaches when they were finishing up high school. Although education took more of a front seat during their college years, the twins still found time to play intramural volleyball.
Most teachers will admit that writing and sending emails takes up a large portion of their days. Although they’re two different teachers, the twins share an email account. Each twin controls one hand, and they’re able to seamlessly type in sync without discussing how they'll respond to an email.
According to the information available online, it seems that Brittany and Abby Hensel are still changing lives as elementary school math teachers. Although they love their jobs, they’ve publicly expressed the desire to negotiate a higher joint salary.
Looking to the Future
Time will tell if Abby and Brittany Hensel will ever do another television special. They have an Instagram account, but the twins haven't posted a new picture in over a year. Fans around the world would love to know more about their lives as teachers.