Formerly Conjoined Twins Finally Share Their Journey 18 Years After Separation

Formerly Conjoined Twins Finally Share Their Journey 18 Years After Separation

For Mackenzie and Macy Garrison, life hasn’t been without its struggles. They’ve dealt with tough homework, taking on after-school jobs, and finding the best times to hang out with friends. More importantly, they have navigated their lives as separate individuals, thanks to a successful operation. The twins were born conjoined, and before the surgery, their path in life was uncertain. The only guarantee was their incredible bond.

Three Together

The Garrison girls were born as triplets. While Madeline was born healthy, Macey and Mackenzie faced some serious risks. Conjoined at the pelvis, these sisters faced a very different path in life. Their parents had to make a series of gut-wrenching decisions.

Facebook / Darla Keller

Good Doctor

Ten months after their birth, the girls faced a choice that determined the future of their family. The chief medical officer at the Los Angeles’ Children’s Hospital, Dr. James Stein, came forward to head an operation that could help the babies.

Photo by Bob Riha Jr/WireImage

Planning Ahead

Dr. Stein was adamant about completing the operation. After all, while the planned surgery was not going to be easy, Stein knew it was necessary if the girls were to enjoy an independent life. Though this was no routine procedure.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Obstacles

Further complicating the surgery was the fact that the girls’ had entwined intestines and shared a third leg. And in addition to the challenge of surgery, the girls also faced difficult personal circumstances. Their birth parents both had drug addictions, so they decided to give the girls up for adoption.

Inside Edition/CBS

Careful Precision

Still, the procedure couldn’t be delayed any longer. During a 24-hour long operation in 2003, Dr. Stein led a team of surgeons in meticulously separating Macey and Mackenzie. If all went according to plan, both of the twins would be left with one leg.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A New Family

By the last hour, the doctors knew the surgery’s objective had been accomplished. Still, because of the parents’ addiction issues, the future of all three sisters was hanging in limbo. Two years later, positive news developed.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Big and Wholesome

The twins and their other sister were adopted by Darla Keller and Jeff Garrison. They took the girls to their home in Iowa, where with three biological sons, the Garrison family grew. Three sisters now had three brothers.

Facebook / Darla Keller

Treated Right

Living on a farm, the sisters thrived. Both Darla and Jeff treated them as regular kids and it helped tremendously. Macey and Mackenzie may still have had difficulties, but they had a strong determination as well.

Facebook / Darla Keller

Later Obstacles

Due to their amputations, the two relied on prosthetics to stay mobile. Several more medical issues came about as the years went by. Spinal infusions caused issue for the twins, but they persevered. Soon, a big milestone loomed ahead.

Facebook / Darla Keller

Another Step into Life

During the fall of 2020, the triplets entered their senior year of high school. Two decades of their life have almost been completed. For the first time, they could really start looking ahead to a future of their own making.

Facebook / Macey Garrison

One Decision

Madeline, after years of watching the medical help given to her sisters, became interested in a career in the nursing field. She wanted to narrow her focus onto geriatric patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Facebook / Madeline Garrison

New Direction

Mackenzie had not made definite plans on her future just yet, although she realized she had a passion for agriculture. As for Macey, she has started plans to become a kindergarten teacher. One person could hardly believe the strides they’d made.

Facebook / Mackenzie Garrison

Long Time, No See

Even after all these years later, Dr. Stein wasn’t forgotten. The twins may not have seen him in over a decade, but that didn’t stop them from communicating. Their experience has keep them connected in unexpected ways.

Facebook / Darla Keller

Doctor Reminder

The twins have given their doctor the title of “the coolest person ever” and sent over emails to keep him up to date. Dr. Stein, on his part, was ecstatic over the continued contact. He hasn’t been shy about singing their praises.

Photo by Bob Riha Jr/WireImage

Happy Reflection

Sharing an excerpt in a People magazine article entitled:Formerly Conjoined Twins and Their Sister Enjoy Being ‘Normal,'” Dr. Stein spoke about his ongoing relationship with the twins all these years later. “It’s been a wonderful experience following the girls themselves and staying in touch with them.”

Today Show / NBC

Long Time Coming

Dr. Stein had the pleasure to watch as the babies recovered, grew, and matured into two very healthy individuals. The careful work that he and the other doctors performed that day in 2003 paid off well. However, the Garrison girls admitted they were a bit puzzled about all that publicity.

Facebook / Mackenzie Garrison

Common Thoughts

While the twins made headlines during their birth and surgery, both Macey and Madeline have continued to find their prominence in the news, rather odd. Even their sister Madeline could never wrap her head around it.

Facebook / Darla Keller

Sibling Bond

For all three girls, they were simply sisters to one another. The fact that the whole country knew who they were has hardly fazed them, though. They never wanted to become public figures; instead, their personal lives came first.

Facebook / Darla Keller

Future So Bright

Their mother, Darla, was possibly the most excited to see where their future may lead. “I’m relieved because, like I said, we always knew there were going to be bumps in the road and issues,” she said. But fortunately, “They’re just like their peers.”

Facebook / Darla Keller

So Many Paths

The Garrison girls ended up both a surgical success as well as an adoption one. They were fortunate enough to stay together and develop their sisterly bond and irrefutable triplet connection, though they had heard of another set of triplets with an even more unusual story than their own.

Facebook / Madeline Garrison

Strange Welcome

See unlike the Garrison sisters, 19-year-old Bobby Shafran had no idea he was actually a triplet. As far as he knew, he shared his birthday with no other siblings, that is, until he arrived on the SUNY Sullivan college campus. Everyone smiled and waved at him like they had known him for some time, and they kept calling him “Eddy.”

Neon / CNN Films

Mistaken Identity

Bobby soon learned that he was being mistaken for someone by the name of Eddy Galland, but not just because he looked similar. Supposedly, each was a dead ringer for the other, and so Bobby had to see this for himself.

IMDb

Dramatic Meeting

One day, Bobby and Eddy decided to meet. To make the reveal more dramatic, they decided to wear identical clothing and, without others fully knowing who was who, one stood outside the other’s dorm waiting for the door to open.

Neon / CNN Films

One More Step

A door separated Bobby and Eddy. The two had never seen each other before, but they were told by their campus friends “you have a twin”. Whether their friends were being literal or not, the two 19-year-olds would find out with a swing of the door.

Chris McDowell / YouTube

Like A Mirror

It came as a shock for the both of them. Rather than there being another person, it was like a mirror was standing in front of them. This would be the start of Bobby and Eddy’s time in the spotlight, but they didn’t see all the twists and turns that lay ahead.

Neon / CNN Films

In the Papers

The rumors were true: Bobby and Eddy were identical. Since each knew he was adopted, they drew the conclusion that they were long-lost brothers. Their picture was shared in newspapers, and the story reached far enough to reach another 19-year-old, thanks to his adoptive mother.

Neon / CNN Films

Reunited Trio

Ms. Kellman saw her adoptive son David’s likeness in the boys. She shared the astounding photograph of Bobby and Eddy with him. After making contact with them, David reunited with his brothers. The news of the triplets spread like wildfire, and Bobby, Eddy, and David found fame they never could imagine.

Neon / CNN Films

Pop Trio

Bobby, Eddy, and David took the world of pop culture by storm, appearing as a guest on talk shows like the Phil Donahue show and even making a cameo appearance alongside Madonna in the film Desperately Seeking Susan. The world was shocked with how similar they were, and not just in looks.

Orion Pictures

Uncanny

The triplets grew up in drastically different environments, each living with a family from a different economic class: blue-collar, middle-class and wealthy. Even so, there was so much the three of them had in common. Their mannerisms, personalities, even down to what they liked, including their tastes in women. Still, something wasn’t right.

Neon / CNN Films

Making It

The trio enjoyed a great relationship as siblings. They even moved into an apartment together and opened the now famous SoHo Steakhouse “Triplets.” That success came with a price, however. As their fame grew, trusting each other became more difficult, and there was still the question of why were they separated in the first place.

Neon / CNN Films

Media Disappointment

It seemed like anyone approaching the triplets wanted to profit off their story. They were made promises by the media, that were soon broken as soon as their story broke. On top of that, the brothers were struggling with mental health.

Neon / CNN Films

Struggling Together

The bond between Bobby, Eddy, and David began to suffer as time went on. They started to recognize their differences, but stuck together as best as they could. Nothing could prepare them for the many curveballs that were to come.

Neon / CNN Films

An End and a Beginning

The trio’s decline began in 1995. Around that time, the adoptive parents of the three were finding the truth behind Bobby, Eddy, and David’s adoption. And one sibling, in particular, felt increasingly overwhelmed by his inner demons.

Neon / CNN Films

Grief and Truth

Eddy took his own life that year. While the family, both related and adopted, grieved over their loss, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright published an article that revealed the disturbing truth of why the triplets were separated, and how it has happened to others.

BPLvideos / YouTube

Topic Discussion

Lawrence Wright’s article uncovered a disturbing psychological study. The researchers involved sought to learn more about the concept of “nature versus nurture,” which is a big debate when talking about children. The three brothers’ future was sacrificed to find an answer.

YouTube / NEON

Stop for Morality

What is more powerful in shaping a human being? Is it our biology passed down from the previous generation (nature), or is it the environment and circumstance that we grow up in (nurture)? Dr. Peter Neubauer, of the Child Development Center, would stop at nothing to find out.

Wikimedia Commons / Peter B. Neubauer

An Observed Lie

Dr. Neubauer and his associates hoped to see how different or similar the children would be if they were separated — and never knew of their siblings. Throughout the boys’ childhood, a physician would often come to observe them. The adoptive parents were led to believe that the visits were merely to track the adoptive children’s progress.

TheGradFam / YouTube

Coping with Truth

After reading the article that Lawrence Wright had shared with the world, Bobby and David were beyond furious. They felt used. Even with happy families of their own, there was still a hole in their hearts from all the pain they endured. It was a bad time for a sudden movie deal.

YouTube / NEON

A Decision to Make

British filmmaker Tim Wardle was fascinated by the triplets’ story, and hope to make a documentary with Bobby and David’s support and blessing. The two brothers were suspicious of Wardle, as they had learned to be with anyone approaching them. The filmmaker completely understood their hesitation and worked with them while they took their time in deciding.

The Movie Report / YouTube

A Chance To Speak

After four years of convincing them, Wardle finally brought Bobby and David on board to share their story. They didn’t care at all for the money, they just wanted the chance to tell the world what really happened, uncensored and unabridged.

We Live Entertainment

Leap of Faith

While there were concerns about sensationalizing the story to make it sell, Bobby and David took a leap of faith and made the documentary. It became a booming success at the Sundance Film Festival, where Bobby and David began to find peace.

Neon / CNN Films

Healing Together

After watching the film’s premiere at Sundance, Bobby and David felt like they could start to move on. The audience’s hushed reaction meant a lot to the brothers, and they even had many strangers walk up to them and offer them an apology and a hug.

ABC News / YouTube

Love and Family

In the end, the two brothers found peace. They returned to their families, but would never allow them to be separated again. While they can’t forget the difficult times, they can move forward and focus on love and family. There was no point in fixating on getting revenge.

YouTube / NEON

The Debate

Dr. Neubauer died in 2008, and many of his files remain closed. So was there any silver lining to his sick experiment? Some say inherited genes play a bigger role than life experiences in determining our health, while others claim the opposite. These two schools of thought have been at odds for decades.

via Universal Pictures

Pro You’re Born With It

People that firmly believe that our genetic codes predetermine all human characteristics — without any influence by our outside environments — are called nativists. That means our outcomes are evolutionary, passed down from generations. In the other corner?

via Pinterest

Pro Outside Factors

Then there are the people who say human characteristics are shaped by our circumstances. It’s our senses and experiences that determine our outcomes. According to empiricists, traits are dependent on factors like where you live, how you behave, or what you do.

Duluth News Tribune / Bob King

Picking Sides Matters

There’s the nature genetics people, the nurture environment-based people, and then a third group that believes maybe humans traits are determined by both. Agreeing to a compromise works for most problems, but this debate isn’t just for argument’s sake. There are real consequences for choosing the wrong side.

Getty Images / Amriphoto

Deciding Blame

For parents, nature versus nurture begs the question — how much influence do you have in shaping my children? In general, people are curious about how much of ourselves can be blamed on genetics and how much to blame on our environments.

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What Can We Control

Obviously, the jokiness of the blame game isn’t the main incentive behind figuring out the puzzle of nature versus nurture. Understanding how much or little is predetermined by genetics or by potentially controllable environmental factors has many critical benefits.

Flickr / Hannah8ball

Down With The Disease

There’s a glaring advantage of cracking the nature versus nurture code — research, treatment, and prevention for an endless amount of diseases and conditions. If scientists pinpoint a common factor for a terminal illness, then society can work to address it.

via Bloomberg Quint

Identifying Patterns

For instance, if experts found out an environmental factor, like economic status, resulted in a higher percentage of a specific kind of cancer, then more time, energy, and resources could be funneled into prevention for those at risk. And that’s just one of the thousands of potential outcomes.

Washington Post / Bonnie Jo Mount/

Wasted Resources

So what are the negative consequences of incorrectly choosing either nature over nurture? Time, energy, and resources are wasted by researching the wrong avenues for worthless solutions. When it comes to solving terminal illnesses and saving lives, scientists need to pinpoint the truth.

Penn Today / Peggy Peterson

The Power of Twins

In order to better understand the hot debates surrounding nature vs. nurture, scientists rely on twins. Twins are great subjects of study due to their matching genetic codes, so observing the effects of environmental impacts is much easier. The studies are fascinating.

via Fandom Wiki

Twins Are The Only Option

As Professor Tim Spector of Kings College, London, explained to Smithsonian Magazine, both identical and fraternal twins are crucial candidates for scientific study because, without them, we wouldn’t be capable of natural human experimentation.

via Financial Times

50 Years Running

Researcher Beben Benyamin of the University of Queensland said, “Twin studies have been conducted for more than 50 years, but there is still some debate in terms of how much the variation is due to genetic or environmental factors.” 

Philadelphia Enquirer / Newsday

A Huge Amount Of Traits

In recent years, scientists made headway in the research of nature versus nurture like never before. Experts combed through fifty years worth of twin studies, which spanned 17,800 different human traits. In the end, they felt confident they’d found an answer.

Getty Images / Bettmann / Contributor

The Results

After looking at twin studies from the past half-century, scientists from Queensland Brain Institute and VU University of Amsterdam made a definitive conclusion. When it comes to how much is determined by genetics and how much is shaped by environment factors — there was a tie!

Kids News / Mark Cranitch

Nature And Nurture

Take the versus out of the equation because both nature and nurture are too important to ignore. Comparing everything from psychiatric disorders to genetic diseases, while some traits are more influenced by genetics and other more by environment, all traits were still sufficiently influenced by both.

via CDC Newsroom

When Genetics Combine With Environment

University of Pennsylvania Professor Rebecca Waller gave a good example of how nature and nurture work in conjunction. If a child is born with the right genetic combination to be a good reader, then parents might pick up on that early aptitude and shape the environment to encourage it.

via Jamestown Gazzette

Classical Twin Design

All the studies used fall under the category of classical twin design. That means that the near-matching genetic patterns of identical twins were compared to the only 50% matching genetic codes of fraternal twins. These sorts of studies have one easily identifiable benefit.

Getty Images / Evan Hurd Photography / Contributor