Conjoined twins are relatively rare. Conjoined twins are always identical, and 1 in 200 identical twins are conjoined. Separating conjoined twins can be a complicated surgery. In many cases, the twins are sharing organs, or their organs are tied up together. There are some conjoined twins who remain together their whole lives because it is just too dangerous to separate them. Whether or not a set of conjoined twins can be separated would depend on where they are conjoined and what organs are being shared between the two. In 2006, Isabelle and Abby Carlsen were born conjoined. The twins were connected from their chest down to their stomach. The Minnesota twins became world news when the surgeons who cared for them made medical history when separating them.
The girls’ surgery was going to be very tricky for the team of surgeons at the Mayo Clinic. Isabelle’s heart was tangled up inside Abby’s chest. If this didn’t make the surgery risky enough, the organs in the twin’s abdominal cavity were mixed together. The surgeons involved knew that the procedure would be difficult, but they were willing to try. One of the doctors called the procedure “doing a jigsaw puzzle in reverse.” They knew that this would be the only way for the twins to live a happy and productive life. The doctors assured the girls’ parents that their daughters would be fine after the surgery. One of the reasons they were so sure of themselves was because they spent hours and hours practicing and training for the procedure. Fortunately, the surgery was a success. Both of the girls recovered well, and after the surgery, the story ended. The twins left the hospital together about two weeks after their surgery and Abby had to wear a protective vest. There was only a very thin layer of skin covering her heart, and it needed to be protected. As she got a bit older, she got rid of the vest when the doctors replaced it with a layer of gortex. Since the successful surgery, the girls haven’t been in the news…until now. Today, the girls are living with their parents in Mandan, North Dakota. They are in the fourth grade, and they couldn’t be more different.
Many identical twins in the fourth grade like to dress alike. Many identical twins have the same interests and are very much alike. Isabelle and Abby are different, and they want it that way. They don’t want to be known as “the twins.” Instead, they want to be known for their own individual personalities. According to Abby, they look in the mirror together each night, and they wonder how it is possible that people still cannot tell them apart.
If you remember hearing their story almost 13 years ago, you should watch this video to see what they are up to these days. If not, you still want to watch the video. Once you hear their story, you will see why these twins love having their own separate lives and their own personal space.
The girls are in different classes at school, so they don’t spend too much time together during the day. The girls know that for the first six months of their lives conjoined, but they remember nothing about it. They say that they look at pictures of themselves back then and they almost cannot believe that it was them. Since being separated, they have thrived. Their parents watched them grow and become their own people. The kids in school don’t focus on them being twins either. Academically, they are doing well, and they also do great in school. There are some signs that the girls were once conjoined. According to their mother, they often reach out for each other’s hands without even knowing it. This is something that they were doing shortly after they were born.
According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, Abby and Isabelle are one set of six twins that they have separated over the years. Even though it has been over a decade since the two were surgically separated, they still need to go to the Mayo Clinic every year for a checkup. The doctors need to be sure that as the girls are growing that their organs that were once intertwined are growing as well.
The video shows the twins back when they were conjoined. It also shows what their lives are today. They are happy to be their own person, but they are still each other’s best friend. They may be competitive, they may be different, but because they are identical twins who were once conjoined, they will always have a best friend. Seeing how far these girls have come is touching. Watching this video almost lets you get to know these girls who over a decade ago were national news.