April 23, 2024

Conjoined twins have “well-adjusted, rich lives”

Lori and Reba Schappell

Conjoined twins can have such “well-adjusted, rich lives, made possible by the development of cooperation strategies” that we can all learn from them, suggests a new book from Harvard University Press. The author of “One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal”, Alice Dormurat Dreger, asks “should people with unusual anatomies be treated as if their socially challenging bodies are inherently diseased?” Dreger points out that while life as a singleton is certainly easier, conjoined twins generally accept it as part of their identity. Although last year’s unsuccessful operation to separate Iranian conjoined twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani was reported around the world, most twins never consider separation. The original “Siamese twins”, Chang and Eng Bunker, travelled widely, married and had 22 children between them. Like them, most conjoined twins just get on with their lives.

As if to confirm Dreger’s point, the BBC recently profiled 42-year-old American conjoined twins Lori and Reba Schappell. They are joined at the head but still manage to lead independent lives, even though Reba has spinal bifida and cannot walk. She has made a career as a country and western singer and Lori works part-time in a hospital laundry. Reba told the BBC: “I like my life as I see it now. It’s great! I’m healthy, that’s what’s the most important. I believe in ‘you make your own hell, or you make your own heaven.'”