Doctors feared that the Kendra and Maliyah Herrin twins would not survive after being born with a belly, pelvis, liver, kidney and colon.
The sisters are now 17 and thriving, after an unprecedented 26-hour operation, leaving each with one leg when they were four.
Now a new one BBC Three documentary shows Kendra – who kept their only kidney – and Maliyah who continue their daily lives like any other teenager.
“When people hear our story for the first time, they like to ask a lot of questions,” they said.
“But we just feel that we are the same as everyone else, we just have a few things that are a bit different.”
Kendra Herrin (left) and Maliyah (right) on their first day of school last fall, when they started as a junior
The twins were born fused together to the trunk and shared a belly, pelvis, liver, kidney, colon and two legs. Pictured: the couple as toddlers
Blooming: Kendra and Maliyah turned 17 in February, 13 years after their ‘cut apart’ day
They were born merged in Salt Lake City, Utah. It took years of consultation before their parents, Jake and Erin, agreed to the surgical divorce.
At that time, surgeons had never separated twins with only one kidney. The required months of research and preparation.
Doctors warned that it would give the girls independence and the chance of a longer life, but carried a risk of death.
In the end it went smoothly – they were out of the hospital within six weeks, although they had to undergo years of heavy backbone and many medical visits.
The girls are grateful that their parents have chosen to continue with the procedure. Maliyah said to Barcroft TV: “We are happy that our parents chose to divorce us.”
Before the operation, the twins had to learn how to make ends meet, each controlling one of their legs.
The girls are grateful that their parents have chosen to continue with the procedure (shown shortly after they were born with their mother Erin)
They were not expected to survive at birth because they shared a stomach, pelvis, liver, kidney, colon and two legs
After years of consultation, their parents Erin and Jake (photo) agreed to keep them surgically separated in an unprecedented operation that would give them independence and the chance of a longer life, but would have a risk of death
Kendra (far right) said that she was the dominant twin when the couple was still merged as a baby. She said, “I just remember that I always wanted to keep control, so I’d almost overlook her.” [Maliyah] would be on her head ‘
Kendra said, “I just remember that I always wanted to keep control, so I’d almost run over her and she’d be on her head.”
The twins had not given much thought to the potential risks of the operation, although their parents had explained what was going on.
Kendra said, “We just called it” day-to-day separation, “we didn’t really know what it meant. However, we were afraid of any operation, so when I started that operation, I just remembered that I was crying. “
Kendra and Maliyah now take everything they do, adapt to prams and crutches and crawl so that they can experience everything they want.
The parents took a long time to decide whether it was best to separate Kendra and Maliyah because of the risks
The twins, recently pictured, said they understand when kids are yawning at them, but they don’t feel comfortable when adults give them a funny look
Kendra and Maliyah adapted to the use of prams and crutches as a way to travel around
Kendra (right) and Maliyah (left) still manage to be active, despite suffering from both scoliosis and their disability
Kendra, who held the sisters’ right leg, is shown last year in a physical education class in Utah – the sisters now have a YouTube channel about their lives
The girls, who also suffer from scoliosis and therefore have bars in their backs, manage to remain friendly, relaxed and enthusiastic.
Kendra joked: “The best thing about having just one leg is that we only have to paint one set of toenails.”
They live with their parents, older sister and younger twin brothers, but they spend most of their time together.
They love their schoolwork and sharing their story, which is a kind of full-time job with their YouTube channel, blog and Instagram, which have thousands of followers respectively.
In a conversation with the BBC, they say they understand when kids are yawning at them, but they don’t feel comfortable when adults give them a funny appearance.
“We are like … it’s weird. They should know, “they said.
At the time, doctors had never separated twins with only one kidney. The required months of research and preparation
The doctors proposed to perform the operation in August 2006. The 26-hour operation was successful and left them with one leg each
They left Kendra with their only kidney and left Maliyah to undergo a transplant
Kendra Herrin pictured at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, after surgery to separate her from Maliyah
Maliyah (pictured right, with her sister Kendra) had to undergo a kidney transplant because the two had only one of the organs in between, and her sister was allowed to keep it
Kendra and Maliyah have been studying online for years, which has been especially important to Maliyah in recent years, when she underwent a second kidney transplant.
She got her first kidney at the age of five from their mother, and it lasted 10 years. But at the age of 15, her body began to reject it and had to undergo dialysis.
After a year and a half on the waiting list, an anonymous donor came in and Maliyah underwent surgery.
Now, almost a year later, Maliyah is in good health and they have decided to go to public school to mingle with other children their age.
One of their friends and classmates, Anabelle, told the BBC: “They have taught me so much about enduring trials and accepting them with grace and brave.”
Despite their operations and health problems over the years, the sisters are in high school and live a typical teenage life.
Kendra said, “High school has been really good so far.” Maliyah added: ‘We were never bullied at school. We are lucky. “
Although they share the same group of friends, the sisters have different personalities – Kendra is outgoing.
They started their YouTube channel, Herrin Twins, three years ago and regularly vlogged about their lives. Kendra said, “We like to make the videos just to make people positive.”
The operation left the twins with one leg each, but they are grateful that their parents divorced them
They live with their parents, older sister and younger twin brothers (photo)
HOW ARE CONNECTED TWINS IN WOMAN FORMED?
Siamese twins arise when an early embryo only partially separates to form two individuals.
Identical twins (monozygotic twins) occur when a fertilized egg splits and develops into two individuals.
Eight to 12 days after conception, the embryonic layers that split into monozygotic twins begin to develop into specific organs and structures.
It is believed that when the embryo splits later – usually between 13 and 15 days after conception – the divorce stops before the process is completed and the resulting twin is connected.
An alternative theory suggests that two separate embryos can somehow merge in early development.
Although two fetuses will develop from this embryo, they remain physically connected – usually on the chest, abdomen, or pelvis. Siamese twins can also share one or more internal organs.
Many merged twins die in the womb (stillbirth) or die shortly after birth. Some surviving merged twins can be surgically separated.
The success of an operation depends on where the twins are connected and how many and which organs are shared, as well as the experience and skills of the surgical team.
Merged twins are usually classified based on where they are connected, usually on matching sites, and sometimes on more than one site.
Source: Mayo Clinic