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Conjoined Twins: Lori and George Schappell

Lori and George Schappell

Lori and George Schappell are the oldest living craniopagus (joined at the head) twins.  The twin girls were born in 1961, and it was believed that they not only shared blood vessels in the brain, but also had a fused brain.  They share the frontal lobe of the brain, and scientists wondered if they might share thoughts.  A Discovery Channel documentary (also available on Netflix) discussed many events of their lives and learned (through a CT scan and MRI) that even though they shared brain matter, they did not share thoughts.

The documentary discussed the agonizing decision that parents of conjoined twins must face: the decision whether they should try to separate the twins.  Some parents choose to separate, while others choose to leave them the way they are born.  Either way, physical impairments are common, and few live as independently as Lori and George.

Buckles Twin Girls

Another set of twins were joined at the chest.  Parents Kevin and Melissa Buckles decided to separate their daughters.  Doctors knew surgery would be tricky because the girls shared a liver, and 60% of Erin’s heart was housed in Jade’s chest. Surgeons had to decide whether to cut a nerve connecting the two hearts.  To their relief, once they severed the nerve, the hearts began beating independently.  However, it appears that Erin suffered a stroke during surgery and is paralyzed from the waist down.  Jade seems to be developing more normally.

Hogan Twins

In another case of craniopagus twins, Felicia Simms (the mother) chose to keep the twin girls together.  Krista (the larger twin in the photo) suffered a seizure because she wasn’t getting enough blood to her brain.  Tatiana is smaller and hasn’t grown as much as Krista.  Most of the blood between the twins was being returned to Tatiana’s heart.

Getting back to Lori and George Schappell, they have their own problems.  George was born with spina bifida, so she is unable to walk.  But the two move around surprisingly well.  George designed the bar stool that Lori pushes around.  They are very intelligent.  Both attended college, lived in the dorms, and George has designed medical equipment for others.  George also received the Best New Country Artist Award when she was known as Reba Schappell.  George’s birth name was actually Dori, and this name change is an interesting story in itself.

According to Wikipedia,

Born as Lori and Dori Schappell, the siblings are craniopagus conjoined twins, joined at the head, but having very different personalities and living, insofar as possible, individual lives. As a mark of individuality, and disliking the fact that their names rhymed, Dori chose to go by the name Reba. By 2007 she preferred to be known as George.

You may wonder why I am discussing the Schappells.  Wikipedia has some other interesting information, that I would like to better verify.

In 2006, George was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Lori did not join the LDS Church, but has been supportive of her brother’s decision. In 2007 George decided to openly acknowledge that he had from childhood identified as male rather than female, and to permanently change his name to reflect this preference.

Wikipedia has a reference to a Sept 13, 2012 article in The Sun, but it does not reference George’s conversion to the LDS Church.  According to The Sun,

[George] says: “I have known from a very young age that I should have been a boy.

George's Plaque indicating the award as #1 New Female Country Artist of the Year 1997

“I loved playing with trains and hated girly outfits. I kept my desire to change sex hidden — even from Lori — for many years.”

George came clean about his desire four years ago. He changed his name from Dori and began living as a man.

He says: “It was so tough, but I was getting older and I simply didn’t want to live a lie. I knew I had to live my life the way I wanted.”

George has not had a sex change, but dresses and introduces himself as a man.

The Sun also states that

Lori has dated men. She says: “I lost my virginity at the age of 23 to my second boyfriend.

“When I went on dates, George would bring along books to read and, as we don’t face each other, he could ignore any kissing. I don’t see why being a conjoined twin should stop me having a love life and feeling like a woman.”

Five years ago Lori was engaged, but four months before the couple were due to marry, her fiancé was killed by a drunk driver.

Lori says: “It was devastating and my heart is broken.

I was also interested to learn the following, especially knowing that they share blood vessels in their brains.

George says: “It’s the little things that intrigue people the most.

“I don’t drink but Lori loves a vodka and orange occasionally. She can feel terrible with a hangover and I’ll feel absolutely fine as our bodies are completely separate.”

If the Wikipedia article is accurate, then it is obvious that Lori participated in the ordinance despite lacking desire to join the LDS Church.  George apparently obeys the Word of Wisdom and doesn’t get drunk despite Lori’s habits.  Wow, this is such a strange life.  My other thought is that the idea of conjoined twins also seems to make it clear to me that God does not seem to intervene in our lives nearly as much as some people attribute.  Comments?

6 comments on “Conjoined Twins: Lori and George Schappell

  1. My other thought is that the idea of conjoined twins also seems to make it clear to me that God does not seem to intervene in our lives nearly as much as some people attribute.

    I agree with the bolded part, but I do not understand how it follows from the idea of conjoined twins.

  2. I just can’t imagine a God who did this on purpose. It seems to me that God let’s nature run it’s course, and let’s us struggle to find meaning in these things. We talk about “Acts of God”, but I don’t find this an act of God, but rather an act of nature. To me, this is a perfect example of how God does not intervene.

    I am reminded of the scripture that asks essentially, “which did sin? This man or his parents that he was born blind.” Jesus responds that neither sinned, but the man was born blind that the acts of God could be made manifest. That’s a nice saying right before healing a man of blindness, but how is the act of God to be made manifest in George and Lori’s (or the Hogans or Buckles) situation?

  3. That’s what I figured you meant, and again, I agree with your conclusion. But “make it clear” is overstating things. People get up in testimony meeting and claim that things like a beautiful sunrise make it clear that there is a God, or the fact that they found their keys means God was intervening in their lives to make it so. Not really.

  4. Any word on how the LDS has reacted to George’s transition?

  5. No idea. But George hasn’t (to my knowledge) done any surgery or anything, so I don’t think the church would do anything unless that happened. Even if George did have sex reassignment surgery (which I highly doubt), I think it would be a PR nightmare for the church to do anything.

  6. I can’t imagine that any doctor would do this surgery. May be someone who wanted the noterity or someone in a different country. I also couldn’t imagine having sex with someone else in the room. Although I do understand that everybody needs love. I do not understand how the twin that sang country actually won that award. She’s awful, unless no other artists came out that year. Unfortunately I guess for me, Reba (George) was a little off putting b/4 she changed her name to George. I just didn’t like the personality that she showed on TV. Good luck to them both.

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