Two small children sit happily on a tricycle, tucking into an ice cream. It could be a scene from any family. But look closer and you’ll notice there’s something very different about Pin and Pan, from Thailand. The sisters are conjoined, sharing one pair of legs.
But would the 7-year-old girls want to be separated, even if it were medically possible? It seems the answer is no.
Born with their own heads, torsos and arms, but connected at the waist, Pin and Pan each control one leg. They have mastered all the important things in life – eating, walking, getting dressed, even getting around on their tricycle, and their grandparents, with whom they live about 250km north of Bangkok, insist they are ‘normal, happy children’.
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‘They love singing, eating ice cream, helping each other with dressing up and giggling together,’ says grandma, Noknoi Pongchumnan.
The twins attend a school for disadvantaged kids, and are popular with students and staff alike. Their teacher, Prateep Suthat recalls the moment the other children set eyes on Pin and Pan: ‘In the classroom, they were asking, “Why do two people have one body?” They wanted to get a closer look. But after they spent time together, they realised Pin and Pan are the same as any other children, and now they all play together.’
The education the girls receive won’t go to waste if their grandparents and teachers have anything to do with it. ‘I would like Pin and Pan to get jobs, because they have the potential and the ability,’ says headteacher Sunan Japan. Noknoi wants her granddaughters to go to university and one day become doctors.
So, how did it feel when the grandparents found out about the girls? ‘The first time I saw them, it was a shock,’ admits Noknoi. ‘I didn’t expect my grandchildren to be conjoined.’
‘She came back from the hospital crying,’ recalls the twins’ grandad Sanay Rompoyen, who also admits to feeling pity for the twins for the first few months of their lives – pity which has now turned to pride.
Joined by body they may be, but the girls’ personalities are far from the same. ‘One likes wearing her hair short in a pixie style, while the other prefers her hair at a longer length,’ says Noknoi. ‘One enjoys eating noodles, the other doesn’t.’
Doctors have raised the possibility of the twins being separated, but they say they want to stay joined together forever, and their grandma agrees: ‘I’ve never wished to see them separated, even if they could. It has never crossed my mind.’