Being a conjoined twin is a condition that occurs once in every 200,000 live births, therefore extremely rare, and statistics have shown that 70% of conjoined twins born alive are female.
But the longest-surviving conjoined twins up until 2014 had been two brothers born in Thailand in the early 1800s.
Chang and Eng Bunker were the famous Siamese Twins of that era, until they eventually settled in North Carolina, married local sisters and had 21 children. They died at the age of 62, which made them the longest-surviving conjoined twins until a few years ago.
In 2014 their Guinness record was broken by two Ohio brothers, who at the time had just turned 63.
Ronnie and Donnie Galyon were born in October 1951. Their parents didn’t even expect twins, much less conjoined ones. Their condition was something their mother couldn’t handle and she rejected them, eventually leaving her husband to bring them up alone, later on with his new wife, Mary.
Although the two brothers were born healthy, they spent the first two years of their life in the hospital.
During all this time, doctors tried to figure out the best way to separate them, but when they concluded they couldn’t guarantee they would both survive the operation, their parents decided not to proceed with it.
In fact, the first separation of conjoined twins was performed in Chicago in 1955 by neurosurgeon Dr. Harold Voris of Mercy Hospital, who separated conjoined twins that were joined at the head.
At the age of three, the twins were sent to a freak circus by their father, who was struggling to provide for his large family- by then he had had nine children.
The boys joined Ward Hall, a legendary carnival impresario, and traveled with him around Canada and the US performing a sideshow under the marquis: ‘Alive in person – Galyon Siamese twins!’. During that show, the two boys just went about their daily life and people paid to watch them.
Their career ended in 1991, when they stopped performing, but, as they explained, their job didn’t traumatize them; on the contrary, they had lots of fun growing up.
Donnie and Ronnie, who shared a lower digestive tract, rectum, and penis, led a healthy life until 2010, when their health problems first appeared.
At the time, one brother developed blood clots in his lungs which were caused by a virus. This eventually affected his twin and they both had to be extra careful with their health and take their medicine regularly after that.
A little later, they were found to suffer from debilitating arthritis, which made it impossible for the two brothers to live alone any longer. They had to be monitored and taken care of throughout the day.
And that’s when the Dayton community came together and arranged for them a special house that would accommodate their needs. Their new home was also very close to their younger brother, Jim’s place, who assumed the responsibility of caring for them full time.
When, in 2014, Ronnie and Donnie celebrated their 63rd birthday breaking the world record, they told reporters that it was something they had been looking forward to.
“‘It’s what me and Donnie’s always dreamed about, and we hope to get the ring, because we’ve dreamed about getting this since we were kids,” Ronnie told the Dayton Daily News at the time.
The brothers died on July 4th, after having lived a nice life as they used to say.
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