At the age of seven, Masha (left) and Dasha (right) show how well they can stand up on their two good legs at Moscow's Institute of Prosthetics, where the twins lived during the years when they were learning how to walk.

 

Masha and Dasha Krivoshiyapova (3 January 1950 – 17 April 2003) were Russian conjoined twins

 

Masha and Dasha were of the Ischiopagus tripus variety. They were joined at the hip with their spines conjoined at 180-degree angles in a unique way which made surgical separation impossible. Their unique connection included three legs shared between them, a shared single lower intestine, four kidneys utilized by one bladder, one shared reproductive system and a circulatory system that pumped the same blood through both women's bodies.

 

Their mother was told that the girls died moments after birth, but in reality they were spirited away to a Soviet research institute for study. For the next 20 years, the sisters were subjected to cruel experiments in order to determine which anatomical systems they shared. One sister would be placed in iced water, while doctors monitored the other's body temperature, or else one would be poked with needles to see if the other cried. They were five years old when they learned to walk and required crutches to move around, since their torsos were too far apart for them to balance naturally. Although they were given special clothes to wear for press photos, such as the ones shown here, they were usually kept naked or in hospital gowns and received substandard educations.

At the age of 12 and refused to participate any longer. When they were 17, they had a surgery to remove the third leg, which was actually both of their inner legs that had fused together. Without the leg, they couldn’t walk and had to get around on crutches. Eventually they received a wheelchair. They lived in an apartment in Moscow. Several doctors offered to separate the twins using the surgical technology now available, but they declined. One sister said, "If we weren't conjoined, we would probably still live together." On April 17, 2003, Dasha, who was an alcoholic, died of a heart attack. Masha again refused separation, but was administered a sleeping pill. She died 17 hours later.

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