Lori & George Schappell

Forty-nine year old twin sisters Lori and Dori Schappell hated the rhyming names their parents gave them, so Dori, a country singer, legally had her name changed to Reba (after her hero Reba McEntire).

These days, Reba prefers to go by the name George.

While George enjoys making country music, sister Lori is an award-winning bowler.

And though they are twin sisters, Lori and George Schappell have only seen each other by using mirrors.  This is because they are craniopagus conjoined twins (joined at the head), and their heads face opposite directions.  The women share bone, vital blood vessels, and 30% of their brain (the frontal lobe and the parietal lobe).

The executive functions of the frontal lobes involve the ability to recognize future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good and bad actions (or better and best), override and suppress unacceptable social responses, and determine similarities and differences between things or events. Therefore, it is involved in higher mental functions.  The frontal lobes also play an important part in retaining longer term memories which are not task-based. These are often memories associated with emotions derived from input from the brain’s limbic system.  The frontal lobe modifies those emotions to generally fit socially acceptable norms.

The parietal lobe plays important roles in integrating sensory information from various parts of the body, knowledge of numbers and their relations, and in the manipulation of objects. Portions of the parietal lobe are involved with visuospatial processing.

Conjoined twins are a once in a 100,000 ocurrance.  They develop from a single fertilized egg.  Twins normally begin to separate into distinctive individuals 13 days after fertilization.  With conjoined twins, that separation fails.

They have argued that two minds can exist in a single fused brain.

Lori works part-time in a hospital laundry but frequently takes time off for her sister’s concert dates.  They live in an apartment in Reading, Pennsylvania, with George’s pet turtle and pet Chihuahua, who is paralyzed in the back legs and moves around on a wheeled device designed by George.  Each twin has her own private space.

“We’re different in every way,” Lori said. “Even when we bathe, I like to do it in the morning… George likes to do it at night.”  (They use a shower curtain as a divider so that the twin who isn’t bathing can avoid getting wet.)

Lori’s part of their apartment is disorganized; George’s is neat. And they respect that division of territories.

“Twins do what the psychologists call ‘individuation’,” says Dr. Alice Dreger, a bioethicist and medical historian at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.  “It means that they unconsciously develop aspects of difference between themselves so that they’re able to have distinct identities. Those things allow them to develop individuality even within the space of sharing a body together.”

Lori says she has had boyfriends throughout her life. George doesn’t interfere.

“She can’t see us, anyway,” Lori said. “If we’re on a date, she will bring something along that she has to do, or else she’ll read. She totally blocks us out.”

While Lori is able-bodied, George suffers from spina bifida, a developmental birth defect that has caused her to be four inches shorter than Lori.  There was no wheelchair that suited George’s unique condition, because to move around, she must be raised to her sister’s height to avoid excessive strain on Lori’s neck and back. The only thing on wheels that was the right height was a bar stool. Using this as the foundation, George designed the wheelchair that she currently uses.

Lori wheels her sister around on this specially made chair and spends most of her time standing.

When asked whether their lives were more or less complicated than other people’s lives, Lori said, “Less.”

If one died before the other, they say, the survivor would choose separation — but only under that circumstance.

4 Responses to “Lori & George Schappell”

  1. V Says:

    I am INSPIRED by these two wonderful women. I Live with a mild disability, and am adjusting to that and the stigma I get from family, and more. People think we are weak, leave us out and sometimes talk, but guess what? We are STRONG! and these two are more than strong–they are truly AMAZING WOMEN!!

    their love of life is truly an inspiration for us all..
    life is not a freebie, we all have to work at it..

  2. Huh? Says:

    I’ve yet to find out why she named herself “George”. There has to be some rhyme or reason to it. It’s so odd, in my opinion.

  3. brandi Says:

    I read that Reba felt more in touch with male gender. Whoa. A lot of things these two have gone through. Good for them standing for what they believe in and not taking anyone’s crap. I love it.

  4. 10SNE! Says:

    George and Lori are some of my favorite people. It’s easy to see them as individuals, rather than conjoined twins. I love their chutzpah and the choices they make in their everyday lives. Bless the Schappells!

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