Lori and George Schappell, long-term conjoined twins, die at 62

Lori and George Schappell, conjoined twins whose skulls were partially fused but who managed to lead independent lives, died April 7 in Philadelphia. There were 62 of them.

Their deaths, which occurred in hospital, were announced by a funeral home, which cited no cause.

Dr. Christopher Moir, a professor of surgery at the Mayo Clinic, who was part of teams that separated six pairs of conjoined twins – although none of them were joined at the head – said that when one of the Schappells died, the other would have to almost certainly followed quickly.

“Conjoined twins share circulation,” he said, “so unless you somehow emergently split their connection, it's absolutely a fatal process and not viable.”

The Schappells lived much longer than expected when they were born as craniopagus twins, joined at the head, which is rare. They were cited as the oldest conjoined second twins ever by Guinness World Records.

They were connected to the sides of the forehead and faced in opposite directions. Lori was able-bodied and she pushed George, who had spina bifida, onto a wheeled stool. George was born a woman and changed her name in the 1990s to Reba, after country singer Reba McEntire, but she later identified as a trans male.

They insisted, adamantly, that they were distinct people.

“We are two human beings who were brought into the world connected in one area of ​​the body,” Lori said in a short ITV documentary in 1997. “This is a condition that occurs through birth, and people have to learn to understand it. When they see this” – he pointed to their joined heads – “all they see is this”.

He added: “There's a lot more between me and Reba than that. Get over it already, everyone, get over it and get to know the individual.

Lori worked at a hospital laundry in the 1990s and loved bowling.

George has performed country music throughout the United States and abroad; he won a Los Angeles Music Award for best new country artist in 1997; and sang “The Fear of Being Alone” over the closing credits of “Stuck on You” (2003), a comedy directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly starring Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon as conjoined twins.

The Schappells had been hired as technical consultants on the film, but when the Farrellys learned of Reba's musical talent, they added her rendition of “The Fear of Being Alone,” a song McIntire recorded in 1996, she reported the Los Angeles Times. Reba Schappell also made a video of the song.

In 2002, Reba appeared on “The Jerry Springer Show,” singing “Dr. Talk,” a song Mr. Springer wrote and recorded in 1995. The audience stood and applauded as she performed.

They gave each other space for their activities. Reba told BBC Radio in 2006: “When I sing, Lori is like another fan, except she's on stage with me (covered with a blanket to reduce distraction).”

On Springer's show, the twins noticed that Lori was dating men and discussed the logistics.

During Lori's appointments, Reba said, “I wasn't there in my mind. I was there physically. I didn't look at anything or say anything.

Lori added, “You actually forget it's there.”

Lori said she only goes so far with men: “As far as anything beyond cuddling or kissing, I won't go any further. I will give up my virginity on my wedding night.

Lori, who dated men, added, “I've shared intimacy before.”

They were born on September 18, 1961 in West Reading, Pennsylvania, two of eight children of Franklin and Ruth Schappell. Their doctor gave them one year to live.

“Then he said we won't live past 2 or we won't live past 3,” Lori told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. “Every year he was wrong. The other day we were saying that if she could see us now, we would be 41 years old and still be here”.

At an early age, the twins were placed in an institution for the intellectually disabled in Reading, according to a 2005 article in New York magazine.

“Because they weren't retarded, they helped the caregivers make the beds and feed the other children,” Ellen Weissbrod, who directed “Face to Face: The Schappell Twins,” a 2000 documentary, said by phone.

The Schappells were institutionalized for more than 20 years until they met Ginny Thornburgh, the wife of Gov. Dick Thornburgh of Pennsylvania, in the 1980s. Mrs. Thornburgh was a disability activist, and Governor Thornburgh closed some state institutions for people with developmental disabilities.

Relaying her memories of the Schappells through Governor Thornburgh's former press secretary, Paul Kritchlow, Ms. Thornburgh said it was clear from speaking with the Schappells that they were not intellectually disabled and did not belong at the facility. She spoke to the facility's chaplain, who helped move them into senior housing in Reading.

Mrs. Thornburgh then invited them to dine with her at the governor's residence in Harrisburg. She also visited them at their apartment.

They leave their father; their sisters, Denise Schappell, Brenda Zellers and Patti Cahill; and their brothers, Rodney, Dennis and Gregory. Their mother died in 2019.

The Schappell twins said they never wanted to be surgically separated and that they didn't want to be born apart.

“Our parents instilled in us from the day we were old enough to know better and understand what they were saying,” Lori told ITV, “that God did this for a purpose.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *