Caitlin and Emily Copeland were born as conjoined twins, but now the 18-year-olds are preparing to separate for the first time as they head to colleges three hours apart.
The girls were born in 1996 joined at the chest, sharing a liver and bile ducts. Doctors determined that the newborns needed surgery to be separated, though it would be potentially dangerous.
“Importantly, the heart was not shared,” Dr. Kevin Lally, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pediatric Surgery at the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital told ABC News. “So I didn’t think that there was going to be anything that would prevent us from doing a separation.”
The girls came out of the surgery just fine, growing up without suffering any effects. The sisters grew incredibly close, working on homework, teaching at Sunday school, and serving on student council together.
Friends who noticed how close the twins are had no idea just how right they are, Emily said.
“When people talk to us, they’re like, ‘You just seem so close,’ ” Emily explained. “And I think being conjoined, you can actually look a picture, like, ‘Wow, they really were close.’ But, it’s true. The physical aspect of it is 100 percent true emotionally.”
But overall, the girls go about their lives just like any other twins, she added.
“We don’t think about our past on a daily basis,” Emily told People magazine. “But when we are reminded what we went through it makes turning 18 that much more special.”
When they entered Lutheran High North, both Caitlin and Emily Copeland excelled at their studies and ended up at the top of their class.
When they graduated in May, the once-conjoined twins stood at opposite ends of the stage to deliver the commencement address.
Now the girls born connected at the chest are preparing to put about three hours of driving between them. Emily is set to attend the University of Houston in the fall, where she will study hotel management. Caitlin is headed to Austin to study education at Concordia University Texas.
“It’s scary,” Emily told ABC about leaving her conjoined twin for the first time ever. “If I start overthinking it, I get really, really sad.”