According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one in every 200,000 live twin births worldwide are conjoined, though 40 to 60 percent are stillborn and 35 percent of those who survive only live for a day,” the Phoenix New Times reported. Ronnie and Donnie Galyon defied all of the statistics. Ronnie and Donnie were born in Dayton, Ohio on October 28, 1951, joined from the sternum to the groin. They progressed through their lives in what can be deemed a scientific anomaly. Take the time and learn more about their unconventional lives.
The Start Of History
Joined from the sternum to the groin, Ronnie and Donnie Galyon didn’t require a C-section for their birth. After their birth in 1951, according to the ward, the mother didn’t want them. She left the twins to be raised by their father Wesley and later on by their stepmother Mary.
The first two years of their lives were spent in and out of hospitals. Doctors were trying to determine if there was a way to separate the twins. Due to Ronnie and Donnie sharing one set of male organs, doctors concluded it would be best to leave them as they are.
The Unexpected Twins
What makes these twins more interesting is that their parents Eileen and Wesley Galyon weren’t even expecting twins. Donnie came out headfirst and was followed by Ronnie, who came out feet-first. The two of them were born with separate hearts and stomachs.
Ronnie and Donnie were each born with their own set of arms and legs. Due to the way they are connected at the groin, they’ve been forced to live face-to-face for the past six decades.
The Traveling Commodity
Since it was determined that the twins would be together the remainder of their lives, decisions had to be made. Mr. Galyon wasn’t into the idea of showing off his children for the entertainment of others. However, when he found himself in financial trouble, that mindset changed.
The boys were already attracting attention everywhere they went without any effort. Once they turned four, they began traveling with their dad to be showcased in carnivals across the country.
The Circus Act
While today, sideshow acts are widely seen as taboo and offensive, this wasn’t the case back then. In the ’60s, human oddities were practically a staple in many American carnivals. This medium also served as a haven for those who didn’t feel accepted.
You have to imagine how difficult it must have been for Ronnie and Donnie. Granted, they were young, but they more than likely had to understand at a young age how misconstrued the world could be. Even if you didn’t ask, you could be dealt an unfavorable hand.
The Feeling Of Nonacceptance
When Ronnie and Donnie grew to the appropriate age of schooling, their father figured it would be the best to give school a try. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. School officials wouldn’t let the twins attend because they proved to be too much of a distraction to the other kids.
This wasn’t the case for them in the carnivals. In fact, they were treated like rock stars in that field. They made friends with “the smallest man in the world,” Little Pete, and Johan the Viking giant.
Supporting The Family
It appeared as if the family had just earned a new way of getting paid quality money. Ronnie and Donnie were more than just circus acts, they soon became the money makers in the family thanks to their condition. They made enough to support the whole family. Their parents had nine children in total.
“That was the only income. They were the breadwinners,” Jim, the youngest brother, said. The only issue is, how much longer were they going to be able to milk this lucrative business? As we mentioned earlier, sideshows are not as popular today as they were back then.
Taking The Act Elsewhere
Soon, showcasing different people at the circus started to become taboo in America which ran the options thin for the Galyon family. After all, the twins were their cash cow, so to miss out on all those funds would have put a hurting on their livelihood.
Once the politically correct backlash of the ’70s hit, performing live as ‘human freaks’ in the United States was endangered. As a result, Ronnie and Donnie toured Latin America. They appeared with Circo Union in Mexico.
The Ups And Downs
Being famous and well-received where you’re supposed to be is one thing, but when you have to appear in public not looking like usual status quo, things get tough. Being rejected from school was only the start of their struggle.
The twins would also get harassing phone calls in the middle of the night. People would literally stop what they were doing just to give Donnie and Ronnie an earful of harmful speech. All because they defied the odds and remained alive when statistics wrote them off.
Fearing For Their Safety
Things got so bad at one point, Ronnie and Donnie had to get the local authorities involved. The twins retired from the sideshow business in 1991 and ended up buying a home in Dayton, Ohio with the money they had earned.
The local kids would peer into their windows and spit on the glass. This is when the twins became frightened and decided to call the cops for help. Their younger brother Jim recalled, “the sheriff told the whole school in no uncertain terms that the behavior would not be tolerated and that they would be prosecuted.”
Battling Each Other
Living with someone face-to-face for your whole doesn’t sound all that fun. No matter if that’s your twin or not, things have a high potential of getting chippy. There were indeed disputes that Ronnie and Donnie got into with one another.
The two have made various compromises, but that isn’t enough to keep the peace with someone attached to you 24/7. The twins used to get into physical fights on top of verbal brawls.
A Bloody Scare
Yes, the feuds used to come around often between Ronnie and Donnie. Soon, they came few and far between after they started taking blood thinners. They realized things could get fatal if they kept up the physical fights once they began the blood thinners.
They had a huge scare in 2009. Ronnie developed blood clots in his lungs as a result of a virus. It was so bad that it spread to Donnie as well. Both of them were weakened due to this and had to be hospitalized. They needed persistent care afterward.
Subjects Of Study
J. David Smith wrote a book in 1988 called Psychological Profiles of Conjoined Twins. The book went over some of the in-depth tests that were conducted on the twins. One thing that was discovered was that even though they have average IQs, they seem slower due to lack of education.
That isn’t that big of a deal, but another issue was discovered. Ronnie and Donnie had bouts with anger also. This happened since they were young and often what led to the fights they would get into.
Consequences Of The Anger
According to the book David Smith wrote, “it was more difficult to assert individual independence as a teenager when joined physically to a counterpart.” It’s already hard enough to express yourself individually in your teenage years, so this must have been tough.
In fact, the anger got so hot one time, it cost one of the twins a healthy foot. When they were just 14, Donnie broke his foot after kicking a trailer due to the rage.
Enter World New Weekly
Not only were Ronnie and Donnie in books, but the tabloids placed them in their papers as well. The tabloid World New Weekly did a feature on the twins before the publication went out of business. They called them the twins The Battling Galyons.
They earned that nickname from World New Weekly because of the arguments the twins would get in. They ended up picturing them with rifles because they felt one of them might shoot the other one day. It was a joke, but ironically, one brother blackened the other brother’s eye.
The Logistics That Come With Being Conjoined
Because they were conjoined, you’re probably wondering just how things like voting, social security, and other aspects of life were handled. For starters, they had to cast two votes and had separate social security numbers.
Something Ronnie and Donnie really enjoyed doing was traveling outside of America. Thankfully, they only needed one passport for that. Things could have been worse for them, but they got the appropriate help they needed.
They Felt The Love
Yes, the twins went through some tough situations, but there are also two sides to the coin. Sometimes people with a big heart are there to help. A Christian Youth Group built an added space at their brother’s home for Ronnie and Donnie when they were released from the hospital after the scare.
The twins were starting to age, so they were beginning to need some extra help anyway. Living with their brother and his wife seemed like the best possible idea at this point.
Kindness All Around
Not only was the Christian Youth Corps kind enough to build that addition to the twins’ brothers’ home, others were kind to Ronnie and Donnie as well. Strangers had been noted to take the time to get to know the twins. Some even went out of their way to pay their restaurant bills.
And although we mentioned how Ronnie and Donnie used to fight all the time, they were really each other’s best friends. Over the years they were offered different separation procedures but refused them all.
Adapting To Growing Pains
You have to imagine how tough growing up must have been for Ronnie and Donnie was as far as health issues go. The thing is, the older they got, the worse their matters became. They had to take more precautions than usual as they aged.
When walking, the twins had to take breaks. They also started eating healthier, changing their diets. This is because digestive problems could leave them in the hospital for weeks. One of their close friends, Glenn Kwiatm said, “their goal [was] to live to be the oldest living Siamese twins.” In the end, they made that goal.
The Longest-living Conjoined Twins
In 2014, Ronnie and Donnie officially became the longest-living conjoined twins in history! They turned 63 that year, beating out the past record holders who passed away at the age of 63. They celebrated this milestone by going to Disney World.
On that day, they went to breakfast at the Golden Nugget Cafe where all the staff greeted them with open arms and kisses. The cafe owner said, “I love them because they’ve taken something that most of us couldn’t deal with and they are like kings and beautiful people.”
They Made It To 68 Years, A Real Miracle
Their brother Jim acknowledged that beating the record of longest-living conjoined twins was a dream Ronnie and Donnie wanted to see come to fruition.
Sadly, the twins passed away on the 4th of July, 2020. They were in a hospice facility in Dayton, Ohio. Brother Jim was the one to confirm the bad news to the press. Ronnie and Donnie had amazingly made it to 68 years old, something their doctors could never have dreamed of.