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Mayo Clinic; Formerly conjoined twins ‘on the right track’

By Matt Russell

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

They say there’s a special bond between twins, but in the case of the 3-year-old Carlsen twins of Fargo, N.D., there’s an extra dimension at work.

Abbigail and Isabelle Carlsen were born conjoined, their hearts overlapping when they came to Mayo Clinic in 2006 for a separation procedure that was an international news story.

The girls returned to Mayo for a much lower-profile checkup this week, sporting matching jeans and hairdos as they met with doctors Friday morning for one of their final appointments.

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"They love each other," their mother, Amy, said shortly after the girls finished their checkup. It’s rare the girls are apart, she said, but when that happens they constantly think about each other and wonder what the other is doing.

On Thursday, for example, the girls were briefly separated for X-rays.

"Abby said, ‘Where’s Belle? Where’s Belle? Getting her pictures? Where is she?’" Amy Carlsen said. "Belle did the same thing: ‘Where’s Abby? Where’s she at?’"

The twins are a bit small for their age, have ongoing occupational and physical therapy, and need to wear chest guards at preschool to protect them from possible internal injuries, according to Amy Carlsen and the girls’ father, Jesse Carlsen.

They are in good health overall and are on track developmentally. Both girls started to walk at 11 months old. The twins recently started gymnastics and in daily life can do all the things other kids their age can do, their parents said.

Both girls are kind-hearted and loving, Amy said, but there are clear differences in their personalities.

Isabelle, who often speaks first when a question is asked of the girls, is a bit of a spitfire and a "go-getter," Amy said, while Abbigail is more reserved. Jesse called Abbigail "a little better mannered."

Still, the girls have much in common. They both like Mickey Mouse and princesses, especially Cinderella. They both like arts and crafts, enjoy learning, and would eat macaroni and cheese every day if they had the choice, their parents said.

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The Carlsens arrived in Rochester on Wednesday night and were scheduled to leave Friday afternoon after two days of doctor appointments.

Life has settled down for the family since the highly publicized separation surgery three years ago, but they continue to receive national media attention. The NBC program "Dateline" will feature the family either this Sunday or next, for example, Jesse said.

Annual checkups will continue at Mayo for the girls, but they are healthy and doing well, Amy said.

"They are right on track," she said. "They’re above and beyond what I thought they’d be doing."

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