Conjoined Twins: Lori and George Schappell

By: Mormon Heretic
November 19, 2012

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?

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12 Responses to Conjoined Twins: Lori and George Schappell

  1. hawkgrrrl on November 19, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    Mind. Blown. I immediately went to the logistical problems of baptism by immersion. Hmmm.

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  2. Mormon Heretic on November 19, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    Yes, Hawk, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Wikipedia entry about George’s baptism.

    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.

    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?

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  3. luman walters on November 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    my mind is racing trying to keep up with all the theological questions this raises. Is there one soul? Lets say one of them has pornographic thoughts all the time. lets say those thoughts are ocurring in the frontal lobe which they both share. Will the both be held acountable for these pornographic thoughts? Where are your thoughts? What makes your thoughts your thoughts? Where is the soul? How can only one soul be impacted from shared brain cells? What is the self?

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  4. Mormon Heretic on November 19, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    From the CT scan and MRI, it is apparent that their brains are separate. Additionally, despite the fact that they share blood vessels in the brain, the alcohol apparently does not crossover. So yes, they are 2 souls, and I feel quite confident that they will be resurrected without attachment.

    As for our thoughts, modern leaders have said that thoughts in and of themselves are not sins. So long as we act well, and don’t give into sinful thoughts, we are not sinners.

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  5. hawkgrrrl on November 19, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Although, and I’m not an expert, I thought from watching Law & Order Special Victims Unit that the frontal lobe is what inhibits us. Without inhibitions, we do all kinds of crazy stuff: sexually, violently, whatever. So if there is diminished frontal lobe (which wasn’t stated here, but a shared frontal lobe sounds like diminished), then are people equally responsible for their actions. Of course it also can diminish our ability to think through complex matters.

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  6. alice on November 19, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    I’m not an expert either, hawkgrrrl. But I saw a doc on living with brain damage many, many, many years ago.

    One of the memories that stays with me is the astounding number of redundancies that our brains are wired with. One of the stories concerned a woman who (can’t remember why) had a condition that resulted in a breathtaking void in her brain. What remained was something like the walnut shell surrounding the nutmeat of her brain that had become missing. Remarkably, what remained began to re-program, so to speak, and she was able to recover nearly full function.

    I wish I could remember more completely what they theorized was going on but, in any case, it was astounding and pointed to enormous potentials to draw on these redundancies that don’t come into play until extraordinary events make them necessary.

    Hope someone will have more information.

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  7. rbc on November 19, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    I am in the Reading Stake and have seen these two at various stake meetings. I am not in their ward and had no idea about their backstory. But, I can confirm they’ve been to the adult sessions of stake conference a couple of times. Not sure the last time I saw them, but it may be longer than a year ago. Thanks for the information.

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  8. Mormon Heretic on November 19, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    RBC, thanks for the info on a sighting of them at stake conference. I guess we can trust Wikipedia on this after all.

    I’m thinking back to luman and Hawk’s comments. I don’t think pornographic thoughts are by default sin. Is it a sin to imagine your spouse naked? Adam and Eve were naked and without sin. So, I think it is acceptable to have “pornographic” thoughts about your spouse, and even act on those thoughts with your spouse.

    As for impulse control of the frontal lobe, I’m no expert either. (Where’s Mike?) From the documentary, they didn’t seem to have impulse problems, and George appeared quite intelligent. While reviewing the MRI with the doctor, George explained the scan to the doctor, and he replied jokingly, “You’re right. Now can you dictate the report for me?” Obviously their appearance is startling, and I wouldn’t call either one of them fashionistas, but we shouldn’t underestimate their intelligence. I think many people do underestimate their intellectual abilities.

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  9. Hedgehog on November 20, 2012 at 1:50 AM

    I imagine clothing is selected to some extent according to ease and comfort of dressing MH. Can’t pull anything over their heads, and it must be uncomfortable even so, thinking about how we generally contort ourselves whilst dressing.

    The interesting part has to be respect they must both have for the other’s agency. George’s baptism, and so on..

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  10. MH on November 21, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    I just had a thought. How would the church respond if George wanted to go through the temple. The whole gender issue causes issues. What if George wants the priesthood? I’m sure the church would say ‘Nada.’

    If George remained Dori, I still doubt the church would give a recommend because Lori as a non-member would have to participate. Oh, the conundrums!

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  11. Kathy Haynie on November 24, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    I have been fascinated by Abbie and Brittany Hensel for years. Now they are 18 and starring in a reality TV show on TLC. Has anyone watched it? (I am kind of TV phobic.) They aren’t LDS, but their lives bring up many of the same kind of questions here – two people inhabiting one body. How does it work – I mean the identity / individualism part.

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  12. Laura Luanne on July 29, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    I am sorry but I don’t believe Dori went from, Dori,to Reba to Geroge, no! Watching them over the years, the are one year younger than me, I think thy are academically simple minded!
    where are heir parents?

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