Conjoined Twin Sisters Were ‘Cut In Half’ in 2006, Look at Them 13 Years Later

TIMEApril 2, 2020
From the archives: This story was last updated in May 2019.

For many mothers, it’s their worst fear. They have had the joyful experience of hearing that they will have a child only to find out later on during their pregnancy that not all is well with their baby. For Erin Herrin, the first news was that she would be having identical twin girls. As the pregnancy developed, it was clear that the two were attached.

They shared several internal organs and, worst of all for their future prospects, one kidney. The doctors did not think they would survive and advised Herrin to terminate the pregnancy. She refused to believe that there was no chance for their survival and gave birth to Maliyah and Kendra on Feb. 26, 2002, at The University of Utah Hospital.

As the twins said in an episode of “Living Differently” on BBC 3, “the doctor said we weren’t going to live past 24 hours, but after we passed they said that we wouldn’t live past eight sharing one kidney.” Their first years were difficult, but mom Erin showered them with love.

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Then the day came when they needed to be separated due to kidney function, as no other twins with this condition had ever survived. It was decided that Kendra would keep the one kidney and Maliyah would go on dialysis until she could get a transplant from her mother.

While their parents tried to make sure they were prepared medically and psychologically for the split, it was yet another difficult moment for the miracle twins. As Erin said, “It wasn’t always cut and dry that we were going to separate them and that’s all there was to it. There’s so much that goes into a huge decision like that.”

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Now that the girls have made it so far, they have been dealing with the next challenge, which, while it isn’t life threatening, can definitely be pretty scary: high school. Fortunately, the girls have dived right in and have been treated well by their classmates. “High school’s good been good so far, like people are really nice,” says Maliyah.

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Both girls have been making great progress with adapting to only having one leg, working with their PE teacher. “They came in fairly timid, fairly weak in some areas.”

Since then, she has them lifting weights to strengthen their upper bodies and their legs to help them reach their goal of walking exclusively on crutches by the end of the year. “They’re just getting stronger all the time, they’re so determined.”

They’ve also inspired other students at their school with their perseverance. One of their friends said, “I think that they’ve taught me so much about going through trials, and accepting trials with grace.”

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At home, the girls play a big part in the life of their family, taking turns cooking for everyone. When they aren’t busy with schoolwork, they like to make videos about their everyday lives for the tens of thousands of subscribers who love watching them.

Despite the fact that they shared everything in the past and continue to do so, they don’t think they look that much like each other and are happy that their parents chose to separate them. As mom Erin says, “The self-esteem that they have blows me away. Lots of people could learn a lot of things from them.” As the miracle twins, who are now 17, become adults, they seem to show no signs of slowing down and showing the rest of the world what determination really is.

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Photo courtesy of Herrin Twins ( Website | Instagram | Facebook )