According to the University of Maryland Medical Center one in every 200,000 live twin births worldwide are conjoined, though 40 to 60 percent are stillborn and 35 percent of those who survive only live for a day.
Conjoined Twins (less commonly referred to as Siamese Twins following the birth of Chang and Eng Bunker in Siam), are genetically identical, develop from the same egg, and often share vital human organs and limbs.
Abby and Brittany Hensel are about to be the United States' most famous conjoined twins. Their lives"Abby & Brittany," will be featured in a documentary series airing Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 10 p.m. on TLC. Here's a quick look at their story, plus the stories of nine pairs who've made history around the world.
10. Abby and Brittany Hensel Abby and Brittany Hensel were born in 1990. Their parents were told they probably wouldn't survive the night, but 22 years later, the two are off to college.
Their case is rare; they have two hearts, two sets of lungs, and two separate brains. One controls the right side of the body, the other the left side, but the two move together, have two drivers licenses, ride a bike, and navigate the daily lives of 20somethings with ease. Since they were born, the two have been featured in magazines and talk shows.
9. Chang and Eng Bunker Chang and Eng Bunker were born in 1811 in Siam (now Thailand). Their livers were fused together and could have easily been separated with modern medicine, but since the operation was much more difficult in their time, the two remained conjoined.
Like many conjoined twins, they toured the world as entertainers and made money as spectacles and medical wonders. Eventually, the two married sisters, settled in North Carolina, and had more than 20 children.
8. Daisy and Violet Hilton The Hilton Sisters were born in 1908. Their 19-year-old mother worked in a bar and sold the twins to her boss, who toured them around the world. They gained recognition in Germany, the U.S. and Australia and tap danced in a Bob Hope act. They gained independence in 1931 and went into vaudeville, where they dubbed themselves the Hilton Sisters.
After performing, marrying, and divorcing, they ended up in Florida, where they had a hamburger stand. The sisters ended up in North Carolina after a public appearance (their tour manager ditched them there), and ended up with a gig at a grocery store until they died in 1969.
7. Lori and George Schappell Lori and George (originally named Dori) were born in 1961, conjoined at the head. They share 30 percent of their brain matter. They grew up in an institution in Pennsylvania, but were released in their 20s.
Under the stage name Reba Schappell (after Reba McEntire), George has performed internationally singing country music, has won an L.A. Music Award for Best New Country Artist, and sang a track for Hollywood film Stuck on You. Dori lives a quieter life, has a gig doing laundry at a hospital and works around George's music schedule. In 2006, George was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and declared a year later that he identifies as a male and permanently changed his name. The two are still living in
6. Donnie and Ronnie Galyon Donnie and Ronnie Gaylon currently hold the Guinness world record for the oldest living conjoined twins. They were born in Ohio in 1951 and are joined from the groin to the sternum, sharing all male organs. They were abandoned by their mother and raised by their father and stepmother. They were toured around the US and Latin America, where they made enough money to support their family as side show acts for more than 30 years. They still make television appearances and live in Ohio.
5. Eliza and Mary Chalkhurst The Chalkhursts were one of the first documented cases of conjoined twins when they were born in England in 1100. Most illustrations depict the two joined at the hip, though some picture the two joined at the shoulder as well. Eliza and Mary lived until 1136, and left money and land to be distributed to the poor in their village.
4. Millie and Christine McCoy Millie and Christine McCoy were born in 1851 to parents who were slaves in North Carolina. They were sold to multiple showmen at a young age and traveled under the name "The Two-Headed Nightingale" until they were kidnapped by another showman and taken to the United Kingdom. There, the McCoy's kidnapper was forced to release the girls back to one of their original showmen since slavery had been outlawed in the UK. Millie and Christine were reunited with their mother and were raised to speak five languages, dance, and sing. They toured with the Barnum circus and made public appearances before retiring and living until they were 61.
3. Krista and Tatiana Hogan Krista Hogan and Tatiana Hogan were born in 2006 in Vancouver, Canada. The two are joined at the head and share a thalamus, which connects their brainstems enabling the two to share brain signals, emotions, and thoughts. Research also confirmed that the two share visual cortex signals, so the two can actually experience what the other twin is seeing. The two have had a series of health issues and associated surgeries, but are currently doing well and making occasional television appearances.
2. Ladan and Laleh Bijani Ladan and Laleh Bijani were born in Iran in 1979 and were lost in the hospital after the doctor responsible for them fled for the United States during the Islamic Revolution. They were raised by Dr. Alireza Safaian, who the girls chose to stay with even when they were reconnected with their natural parents years later.
Ladan and Laleh had very different personalities and often struggled on what they wanted to do with their lives. One wanted to go to law school, the other wanted to go to school for journalism; one was very outgoing and the other shy. Since they were children, they wanted to be separated, but since the two were joined at the head, most doctors refused to perform the surgery since it was so dangerous.
In 2002, the two met with a neurosurgeon from Singapore who had separated conjoined twins joined at the head before. He warned the two that the surgery was very risky, but Ladan and Laleh insisted. More than 28 surgeons and 100 hospital staff members performed the operation, but after complications following the separation and a large amount of blood loss, the two died hours later.
1. Giacomo and Giovanni Battista The Tocci brothers were born in Italy in 1877. They were joined at the waist and shared an abdomen, pelvis, and legs. The brothers were given to the The Royal Academy of Medicine in Turin when they were a month old, and were toured, studied, and put on exhibition throughout the U.S. and Europe as the "Two-Headed Boy."
The two were reportedly never able to coordinate their movements (one controlled the left leg, the other, the right leg), and were wheelchair bound for the rest of their lives. They retired after 20 years of touring, married sisters, and lived in seclusion in Italy.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.