Born attached at the abdomen and sharing a kidney and two legs, conjoined twins Kendra and Maliyah Herrin have faced challenges that are beyond what most of us could ever imagine. So what happened when their parents faced an unthinkable decision to separate them? How did the twins survive, and were they ever the same again? This heart-wrenching decision is just the start of their journey, filled with courage, heartbreak, and hope. It's an inspiring story of two sisters who have overcome the impossible, but at what cost?
Attached at the Abdomen, Twins Kendra and Maliyah Were Born in 2002
In a Salt Lake City hospital, two baby girls were born joined together at the abdomen. The twins, named Kendra and Maliyah Herrin, had a rare condition which meant they shared a pelvis, a kidney, and a liver. Despite the odds stacked against them, the Herrin twins defied all expectations by surviving birth and making it out of the womb. The doctors had warned Kendra and Maliyah's parents that their chances of survival were slim.
Although Kendra and Maliyah miraculously survived birth, the reality of their condition left many wondering how much longer the twins could live; would they beat the odds, or would their time together be tragically cut short?
They Were Not Expected to Live Past 24 Hours
Of every 200,000 live births, only one results in conjoined twins, and many don't survive. Yet, the Herrin twins made it through their first night, which increased their chances of survival. Despite the joy of their parents, the twins' shared vital organs meant that the doctors predicted they wouldn't make it past 24 hours. As the days went by, Kendra and Maliyah proved the medical experts wrong, but their parents soon faced an excruciating choice.
Would the twins continue to defy expectations, or was the end near? Surely they couldn't continue healthy lives in this state, so how could their parents and doctors give them a chance at life?
The Ultimate Decision Had to Be Made
Conjoined twins Kendra and Maliyah Herrin spent their first few years of life literally inseparable, living every moment together. However, their shared organs posed severe medical complications that would worsen with time. Their parents, Jake and Erin, were faced with an impossible decision. Should they leave their daughters joined for life, risking regrets later on? Or should they undergo the risky procedure of separating the twins? It was a scary situation to be in.
Neither option seemed ideal, and Jake and Erin struggled with what to do next. With their daughters' futures at stake, the Herrin family braced themselves for an uncertain road ahead.
Their Parents Were Conflicted on What to Do
Conjoined twins are a rarity, and the decision to separate them is not an easy one for any family. Despite advancements in medical technology, the Herrin family struggled to weigh the risks and benefits of surgery for four-year-old Kendra and Maliyah. Countless consultations with doctors and psychologists left the family searching for answers, but one thing ultimately made the decision a bit easier. They knew they couldn't live their lives conjoined forever.
The Herrins took a leap of faith and opted for the risky separation surgery. Their decision would alter the twins' lives forever, but it was a necessary one for the Herrin family to make.
Separating the Twins Could Be Fatal
Separating conjoined twins is a complex and risky procedure, and for Kendra and Maliyah Herrin, sharing multiple organs made the decision even more difficult. The girls shared a single kidney, a condition that significantly threatened their lives. Kendra spoke candidly about the risks on the twins' YouTube channel, emphasizing the danger of having one kidney to support two people. Despite these challenges, the Herrin family knew separating the girls was necessary for their long-term health and independence.
The decision to undergo the operation was not easy, but in the end, it was worth it for the twins' chance at a brighter future. Or was it?
How Do You Explain to Little Kids That They Are About to Be Cut Apart
The Herrin twins were just toddlers when their parents had to explain to them that they would undergo a surgery to be separated. Maliyah and Kendra tried to comprehend what the procedure would entail, but they were too young to fully understand the risks involved; they were so small after all. As Kendra recounted on their YouTube channel, their parents reassured them that everything would be alright and referred to the surgery as "cut-apart day."
It was a difficult conversation to have, but the girls would soon face an even tougher road ahead as they prepared for the separation surgery.
Preparing for the Life-Altering Surgery
The girl's parents wanted to ensure their daughters were adequately prepared before they entered that hospital for life-changing surgery. The Herrin sisters even shared, "We had our own playroom, we had dolls…We also got nurse badges too." It was clear the staff at the hospital, their nurses, and their parents were doing their best to make them feel comfortable. But the outcome of the surgery was ultimately unknown until the day it happened.
All their parents wanted was for the girls to have good memories to think of leading up to the days of their surgery, especially considering that it could be their last days together.
Their Skin Had to Be Stretched Every Week
Although much mental preparation was necessary before this surgery, the medical preparation was just as intense. The girls shared bodies, which meant they shared skin. Before doctors could separate them, they had to ensure their bodies could handle it. “Every week, we would get tissue expanders which were, like, little balloons that you get placed under the skin so that the skin stretches so that we would have enough skin to get closed.”
This was a painful part of the process, and although the girls were so young, Kendra and Maliyah say they remember this sensation. Even with all this preparation, their lives weren't guaranteed.
Getting Ready for the Worst-Case Scenario
When faced with the daunting prospect of their conjoined twins' surgery, the parents did what any loving parents would do - they showered their children with even more love and quality family time. Kendra shared that the week leading up to the operation was the best they'd ever had, filled with fun family outings to the zoo and the pool. The goal was to create lasting memories in case the worst happened.
And finally, the fateful day arrived - the day the girls would be separated, and the family's world would change forever.
Surgery Day Arrived and Everyone Was Nervous
A week before their surgery, the girls were brought to the hospital to get comfortable in their room and for the medical team to get to know them. As the days passed, the family couldn't shake off the overwhelming anxiety and fear. Finally, the day arrived - "Cut Apart Day." Emotions ran high as they wheeled the twins toward the surgery room. Tears flowed freely as the family braced themselves for what lay ahead.
It was a day that would either bid farewell forever to their beloved daughters or welcome a new chapter in their lives.
It Was Finally Time for the Girls to Be Separated
As the time arrived for the twins to undergo their traumatic surgery, the question of how to prepare them weighed heavily on the Herrin parents' minds. In a heartwarming twist, they organized a scavenger hunt around the hospital, leading the girls to the operating room. Kendra shared the story on the twins' YouTube channel, revealing how they had no idea what was happening until they reached the final number and were whisked away into surgery.
The family exchanged final goodbyes and prayers, and Jake and Erin gave their daughters tender kisses as they were wheeled past the swinging doors and into the operating room.
A Tough 26 Hours Later
The girls shared that for them, it felt like they were only gone for one hour during the surgery; it actually lasted an excruciating 26 hours. Six skilled surgeons and 25 support staff worked tirelessly to separate the twins at the torso, leaving them each with one leg. The post-surgery period was equally daunting, as the girls had to spend three months in the hospital to ensure a successful outcome and long-term health.
The road to recovery was scary, but the Herrin family was fortunate to have an incredible support network during this challenging time. However, they didn't know how the girls would heal.
Their Story Was Making News and People Were Sending Them Fan Mail
The story of the Herrin twins tugged at the heartstrings of many in Salt Lake City and beyond, whether they knew the girls personally or had been following their story. "We got fan mail while we were in the hospital. We still have some of it," Maliyah shared. Throughout their hospital stay, the twins were visited by loved ones, and upon their release, they were welcomed home with a big celebration.
But this wasn't fully over for Maliyah; in fact, another intense journey was about to start.
Maliyah Was Left Without a Kidney
Due to having only one kidney shared between them, the medical team had to make a difficult decision. Kendra received the kidney, and Maliyah went on dialysis for nine months until her mother donated her kidney. All seemed to be going well for her for years Until suddenly, a decade later, Maliyah's body began rejecting her mom's kidney. She had to return to dialysis, and the future once again looked unclear.
It remained uncertain how Maliyah's condition would progress and how long she would have to undergo this treatment, but one thing was known, she needed another kidney and fast.
An Anonymous Kidney Donor Saved Maliyah’s Life
Maliyah had to endure dialysis for another 18 months while also being on a waitlist for organ donations. Despite the challenges, she remained positive and strong. Her mother, Erin Herrin, expressed admiration for her daughter's resilience, noting that Maliyah coped with the loss of friends who also had to undergo dialysis. After a long wait, a generous anonymous donor provided a kidney, allowing Maliyah to stop dialysis and get another shot at life finally.
But even with the possibility of another kidney transplant in the near future, there were still uncertainties and risks involved. And only time would tell if her body would reject this kidney also.
Maliyah Undergoes Another Kidney Transplant
Maliyah's family was scared for her and wasn't sure how she would survive this. She was initially left without a kidney, then through her mom's bravery, she had a kidney for ten years before it gave out. So now she had no choice but to face a kidney transplant again and hoped there would be no complications this time around. However, it was easier said than done because the difficulties didn't stop there.
After the second successful transplant, her new kidney seemed to be malfunctioning, and she became severely dehydrated twice, and then came a third scare with an incorrect medication dosage. But she managed to survive.
Getting Used to Being Your Own Person Felt Weird
It's a bond like no other: being conjoined to someone else. But for Kendra and Maliyah, the feeling was just plain weird. That's why they're grateful their parents made the tough call to separate them in a life-changing surgery. Although it came with many risks, it was ultimately successful, and they are happy. With such different personalities, they admit they would have fought all the time if they had stayed connected.
Now, they get to enjoy separate lives and pursue their own interests, something no one would have ever expected when they were babies.
High School Was a Time They Finally Felt Independent
For these girls, growing up and becoming a teenager wasn't guaranteed, and their parents were unsure if it would ever be in the cards. But they were healthy and entered high school, experiencing a newfound freedom and independence they hadn't before. Every day, they woke up, got ready, and headed off to school with the help of a friend. They studied, got around school, and even came home and made dinner on their own.
They never thought they would have this level of independence, so every milestone was an accomplishment.
Getting Around on Their Own Was Expected to Be Difficult
Now being independent called for getting creative with mobility devices and navigating how they would even get around their homes. Their father's ingenious idea was to use doctor's stools. It ended up being one of the easiest ways to roll around their home. But outside their house, they still needed to figure out an alternative. What could they use for long days walking around? Well, they found the perfect thing.
Whether it was trips to amusement parks or concerts, they had electric scooters to ride. And for shorter distances, like navigating high school, they use walkers.
Learning to Walk Was the Next Big Feat
Kendra and Maliyah's P.E. teacher Donna believed in the girls' potential, despite their physical limitations. They initially felt pretty weak, but with her encouragement, the twins set a lofty goal for themselves: to walk on crutches by the end of the school year. Overcoming their fears and weaknesses, the girls worked tirelessly to achieve their goals. And when they finally did, it was a moment of triumph for all involved.
Within no time, the girls walked on crutches and even up the staircase at school. They certainly came a long way to get to that point.
Trying to Make School a Safe Space
High school can be challenging, but Kendra and Maliyah Herrin have found a way to thrive. Despite the challenges that come with being formerly conjoined twins, the girls have had a positive experience. Despite their differences and using walkers around school, they've shared that they haven't experienced bullying, something they feel very grateful for. Their positive outlook on life has inspired many, proving that anything is possible with the right mindset and support system.
They were rightfully nervous about what high school would be like for them. Could they make friends? Would they get to attend activities that all the other kids go to?
Building Meaningful Friendships Despite Adversity
Kendra and Maliyah Herrin's friends have always treated them like any other friend, a fact that the twins are immensely grateful for. Even with their unique physical condition, their friends hardly notice that they have one leg. Instead, they are in awe of the twins' courage and resilience. One friend, Anabelle, shared that the girls taught her a lot about going through trials with grace and bravery. She admits she doesn't know if she could endure what the girls have gone through.
However, there's one challenge the sisters faced that even their bond seemed insufficient to conquer. What is this challenge, and will they be able to overcome it?
Learning to Drive Was the Next Challenge
Learning to drive can be a daunting task, and for many, it's the ultimate test of their ability to conquer their fears. At the start of their lives, their parents had little hope for the future. They were unsure of what lay ahead, but for Maliyah and Kendra, there was nothing they couldn't take on. So they decided to take the leap and learn how to drive. Was it possible, and could they succeed?
Their newfound confidence spilled over into other areas of their lives, and they began taking on new challenges. They learned how to navigate their way through the world, both on and off the road.
Maintaining a Positive Outlook Despite Challenges
The Herrin twins have faced numerous challenges in their lives, but their positive attitude toward life remains unshaken. "Having one leg means we only have to paint one set of toenails, so that's really nice," they joked during an interview. Their self-confidence and optimistic outlook are truly inspiring, even to their own mother. "The self-esteem that they have blows me away. Lots of people could learn a lot of things from them."
As the twins strive to maintain a positive attitude, they face challenges that threaten to break their spirits. Will they overcome the barriers of a world that is not always accommodating to those with disabilities?
Advocating for the Inclusion of Individuals With Disabilities
The Herrin twins have become more than just viral sensations; they have become advocates for those with disabilities. With their newfound platform, the twins use their voices to promote inclusion and understanding. They encourage others to ask questions and have honest conversations about their experiences. "Don't be afraid to talk to someone," Kendra said. "But be respectful about it." Getting around and having people stare at you is not always easy, but they manage with grace.
Through their advocacy work, they hope the world will be a more inclusive and accepting world for all. Despite their disabilities, they can do things that anyone else can.
Reaching Milestones Their Parents Didn’t Know They’d Make
In 2022, the girls reached a milestone no one thought they would make. They turned 20 years old and were living life independently. Kendra worked as a cashier at a grocery store and already earned a phlebotomy certification when she was just 18 years old. Meanwhile, Maliyah recently graduated from Davis Technical College in digital media and wants to start a career in graphic design. Despite their challenges, the twins continue to pursue their dreams.
But as they looked towards the future, a new fear started to creep in - would they be able to continue defying the odds and living their lives to the fullest, or would their past struggles catch up to them?
They May Have Had One Body but They Have Two Completely Different Personalities
The girls are twins, after all, yet they are convinced they look nothing alike. Despite being once joined together, they couldn't be more different. It's only natural that one sister is more outgoing and extroverted while the other is more introverted. But that doesn't stop them from hanging out and being friends. Although this is precisely why they are so grateful they were separated because it would've been difficult to live lives with very different interests had they been stuck together.
Just because they are sisters and twins and were once morphed into one person, they are people with different personalities. So where can they really let their charisma shine through? School, of course!
Life Isn't Easy All the Time for Maliyah and Kendra
Maliyah and Kendra have overcome incredible challenges and are living life to the fullest. But, as with most things in life, it's not always sunshine and rainbows. Their health condition is a constant reminder of the fragility of life. At any moment, they could find themselves back in the hospital, fighting for their lives once again. This reality hit home hard when Kendra was supposed to start school and faced a massive infection.
She underwent surgery and stayed in the hospital for the next few days, undergoing treatment with a wound vac to help remove the infection. So, while things may seem to be going well for Maliyah and Kendra, it's important to remember that their journey is far from over.
They Started a YouTube Channel as an Outlet for Their Experience
The power of social media is undeniable, and Kendra and Maliyah Herrin have experienced it firsthand. Their YouTube channel has not only allowed them to express their personalities, but it has also given them a platform to share their inspiring story with the world. They like the idea of bringing a smile to people's faces and sharing a silly side of themselves that people don't always get to see or wouldn't know from first impressions.
Who knew that making videos on YouTube would have such an impact on their lives? But it turned out to be the perfect thing for them.
Social Media Has Brought Them the Confidence They Never Thought They’d Have
Kendra and Maliyah have come a long way since they first started their YouTube channel, and it's not just their confidence that has improved. Their videos have made an impact on people's lives around the world. They never thought they would be the type of people to get in front of a camera, but now they can't imagine their lives without it. The girls' positive outlook and humor shine through in their videos, making them an inspiration to many.
But surely, putting themselves all over social media can come with backlash or rude comments. So how do they stay positive through all of the adversity?
Not Surviving but Thriving Against All Odds
The Herrin twins have overcome tremendous obstacles in their lives, but their journey has not been without darkness and mystery. Despite their unwavering positivity, it's impossible not to wonder about the challenges that still lie ahead for them. Will their health hold up? Will they continue to face discrimination and challenges in a world that is not always welcoming to those with disabilities? Only time will tell what lies ahead for them.
The future is uncertain, but what we do know is that the Herrins have already proven themselves to be survivors, fighters, and inspirations to us all.
From Unlikely Survival to Graduating School
Against all odds, the Herrin twins were given a slim chance of survival at birth. But today, they have defied expectations and overcome challenges that many would find insurmountable. From their early years as conjoined twins to their current status as healthy and thriving young adults, their journey has been nothing short of inspirational. They both graduated from school, something no one thought was possible. They continue to defy expectations and break barriers.
Who could have guessed that these once-fragile babies would make it this far? The Herrin twins are a testament to the power of perseverance and the resilience of the human spirit.
Overcoming Struggles to Party and Enjoy Life
Doctors gave them only 24 hours to live, but against all odds, they are thriving in their twenties. Despite the many challenges they've faced, their lives are filled with joy and fun. They make time to hang out with friends and have attended numerous school dances, creating unforgettable memories. They even work full-time jobs and have attended work parties with their co-workers. Even with their disabilities, they lead a fun life that once seemed impossible.
Having shown their strength by maintaining their health, pursuing education, making friends, and living life to the fullest, what could be the next challenge for these sisters? What might they aim for that seems beyond their grasp?
They Made It to Their Twenties
They say that life begins at twenty, and for Maliyah and Kendra, that couldn't be truer. After over a decade of being separated, enduring countless surgeries, and even kidney transplants, they have officially entered their twenties, ready to face all life's new challenges. But navigating through the turbulent waters of one's twenties is no easy feat. Maliyah and Kendra have already overcome so much, but can they handle this new phase of their lives?
Will their bond and shared experiences give them the strength to handle anything life throws at them? Only time will tell, but we're rooting for them every step of the way.
They Refuse to Let Anything Stand in Their Way
Maliyah and Kendra have proven time and time again that there's nothing they can't do. Despite facing countless challenges and obstacles, they've persevered and found ways to enjoy life to the fullest. Many assume that their health condition holds them back, that they can't walk, drive, or even swim. But Maliyah and Kendra refuse to let anyone else dictate what they can or cannot do. Their lives have had their fair share of ups and downs, but they've never let that stop them.
Maliyah and Kendra have proven that life is what you make of it. They've taken their challenges and turned them into opportunities, and in doing so, they've inspired us all to do the same.